A9 Goes to "The O.C."

It's not your grandfather's Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , apparently. "A9.com-ing" may not just slip musically off the tongue like "Googling" does, but will the former soon be kids' code for search? Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) recently had what may be a product placement coup with teens.

I was recently chatting with longtime Fool Dayana Yochim, who knows I spend a lot of time thinking about the search giants, and we had a discussion about the fact that A9.com was recently name-dropped on The O.C., a popular program on Fox (NYSE: FOX  ) . The upshot: A character on the show stated something along the lines of, "I A9.com-ed him."

My first thought? Wow, that's quite a tongue-twister. After more thought, I realized that although I've always preferred Google's simple interface, with A9.com striking me as a bit too fussy, A9.com does have some features that teens might particularly enjoy. After all, it incorporates image search in with regular Web search. It incorporates its popular Internet Movie Database (IMDb). It offers an easy way to search reference materials.

And of course, a very grown-up aspect of A9.com is its easy marriage to the Amazon.com commerce site. Shortly after A9.com launched, it even made a push toward kicking A9.com users who also use Amazon.com a little extra discount and repeated the push during the holidays.

My next thought: Was this a product placement coup that Amazon paid for? I did a quick Web search and ran across a piece on a site called Beta News, which says that Amazon did not pay for the utterance but was, obviously, pleased with the effect. And of course, the blogosphere was buzzing about the awkward phrase, "I A9.com-ed him," with many people casting a jaundiced eye on the idea that Amazon didn't pay for the mention.

Against the backdrop of the search wars, though, it's interesting stuff. Google may be perceived as the leader, but there's also the mighty Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) with its loyal users, as well as Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , which recently officially launched its souped-up MSN search. (I find it amusing that I recently joked about the concept of an MSN search product placement on Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) ABC hit Desperate Housewives. I guess I wasn't too far off the mark.)

The O.C.'s influence probably shouldn't be underestimated. Musically, it's credited with having launched several bands from indie ennui into mainstream popularity, including Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie. Given that kind of influence, despite its tongue twisting, Amazon's A9.com may get into the common vernacular yet. And in these search wars, that kind of pop culture credibility is not to be underestimated.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.

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