In yeast cells, transcriptional activation occurs when the RNA polymerase II (Pol II) machinery is artificially recruited to a promoter by fusing individual components of this machinery to a DNA-binding domain. Here, we show that artificial recruitment of components of the TFIID complex can activate transcription in mammalian cells. Surprisingly, artificial recruitment of TATA-binding protein (TBP) activates transiently transfected and chromosomally integrated promoters with equal efficiency, whereas artificial recruitment of TBP-associated factors activates only chromosomal reporters. In contrast, artificial recruitment of various components of the mammalian Pol II holoenzyme does not confer transcriptional activation, nor does it result in synergistic activation in combination with natural activation domains. In the one case examined in more detail, the Srb7 fusion failed to activate despite being associated with the Pol II holoenzyme and being directly recruited to the promoter. Interestingly, some acidic activation domains are less effective when the promoter is chromosomally integrated rather than transiently transfected, whereas the Sp1 glutamine-rich activation domain is more effective on integrated reporters. Thus, yeast and mammalian cells differ with respect to transcriptional activation by artificial recruitment of the Pol II holoenzyme.