Yesterday, we brought you news that Ask.com was skinning its page with a large promotional campaign for the 'Night at the Museum' sequel (in theaters this weekend.) Later, I was contacted by Ask.com spokesman Nicholas Graham, who clarified some key points.
The Night at the Museum skin is not an ad per se, but rather a promotional exchange. Ask.com is being featured in the film, and, in exchange, Night at the Museum is being featured on Ask.com.
This isn't the first time that Ask.com has done this. Last fall, Ask.com had a promo where searchers could choose a homepage skin featuring the James Bond film Quantum of Solace. Ask.com has presented similar promotions for charities, as well.
A natural question is: Do people want these graphical experiences, or do they prefer the minimalistic white space of Google? But Graham says people do like it and choose to have skins on their page when given the option.
He referenced a weeklong NASCAR campaign, where, after the campaign was over, users were given the option to keep the skin. Many did.
"We know that allowing users to see and experience something other than a 'usual' homepage excites and captivates them, which is why our 'skins' feature is so popular and desired," said Graham. "It also creates strong 'lifetime value' in users, which is such a critical part of brand presence and growing our share of market. And also adds to positive trends in frequency and retention."
What better way to attract lifetime users than by grabbing their attention at a young age. Let's face it, the results on search engines are not so drastically different that Google should be dominating the search market the way it does. If Ask.com wants to steal some market share away, they need to go after younger demographics, to help them form the habit of searching with them instead. (They'll also need to grow up with them and meet their changing search needs and preferences as they mature.)
Ask.com is smart to take actions based on what they have seen build loyalty and also to appeal to younger searchers. The web is an ever-changing world and Ask.com is clearly not out to maintain the status quo.