The App Store has opened a door for companies to engage their customer base like never before. The new iAds platform lets dynamic ‘fun’ advertisements be placed inside apps to make the customer more willing to view the ad, but this doesn’t stray far from what consumers are used to. Many companies have abandoned the traditional advertising model and are trying a different approach: Make the Apps be advertisements themselves. Many of you are probably familiar with Real Racing GTI, the wildly popular racing game by Firemint. The game has hundreds of thousands of downloads, because it’s good and it’s free. Obviously, the game is a promotional tool used by Volkswagen to promote the Golf GTI, but since it is not a half-baked game, consumers want to download it.

Another example is You Cruise by Mazda MX-5, which was released today. This game takes a similar approach by making the star of the game the car. Mazda also adds in Facebook integration, which (they hope) will result in viral marketing through social media. The tagline of the game is “The only Mazda MX-5 experience that is more authentic is to drive the real thing for yourself.” Which is clearly a plug to encourage potential customers. The German version of the app even comes with a built in dealership-locater.

The main difference between these two apps is how ‘pushy’ they are. You Cruise takes an aggressive approach, making the advertising more blatant, which has the side effect of turning-off the customer. Real Racing GTI makes the game about the racing first and the car secondary, which is more subtle, and a much more effective strategy.

Gone Wrong

AMP Up Before You Score was Pepsi’s attempt at Appvertising, but it went horribly wrong. The app was labeled as “sexist” and consumers were outraged. A feeble attempt to control the situation can be view on their twitter feed:

Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women. We apologize if it’s in bad taste & appreciate your feedback. #pepsifail

Pepsi eventually pulled the app, but the damage was already done.

Good or Bad?

Mobile applications and games allow companies to market their product in a way that wasn’t possible in the past. Social media allows the previously faceless businesses to become our Facebook Friends and talk to us directly. These new methods of marketing let products become engrained in our everyday lives, without being shoved in our faces. Consumers have become wise to the 30 second TV and radio advertisements, and either tune them out or DVR past them. Companies have to adapt, and are taking full advantage of these new mediums. Whether this new method is here to stay is unknown, only time will tell. But the result for the end user is both good and bad: Great games like Real Racing are available to us for free, but soft drink companies can respond to your status updates. At what point does this subliminal advertising go to far, and will all companies be able to figure-it-out like Volkswagen has? Or are there going to have more PR nightmares like Pepsi, where companies try to be too hip to the point of self-destruction?

Post a response / What do you think?