Advertising in apps and games has always been a contentious issue. It allows apps to be offered for free in app stores, meaning you’re more likely to download it and try it out. However, many apps have got it wrong and let advertising take over their apps to some extent. Whether it’s unskippable videos, constant pop ups, or other annoyances, there’s a real hatred of advertising in our apps.
There’s one example that we haven’t mentioned yet though: Mobile apps AS advertising. That doesn’t happen right? Well, of course it does. Take the recent slew of Disney apps that have released or updated to feature their new film, Moana. Moana characters have been added to Disney Crossy Road and Disney Emoji Blitz, amongst other Disney owned apps. There’s also a new endless runner game called Moana: Rhythm Run which is now available on the Apple App Store.
These apps are fun in their own right, but there’s no doubt that adding these new characters and games will help ticket sales at the local cinema. Adding them in raises awareness of Moana without even advertising to the player explicitly.
They’re not the only company to do something like this. Bethesda did something with the release of the Fallout Shelter app, before the release of Fallout 4. Obviously they couldn’t bring the full Fallout experience to a mobile app game, so they created something new and different. The upshot of that was that people who were totally new to Fallout picked it up, and eventually played Fallout 4 when it came out (I know it worked, because it worked with me!).
So, does it work? If done well, it does. If a company wants to advertise their product through an app, they need to make sure they create an app that’s worth downloading in it’s own right. Apps like Moana: Rhythm Run and Fallout Shelter are great for bringing new fans in, but you can use them to advertise to current fans too. The Desert Bus For Hope app is a great example. The charity fundraiser made the app to encourage fans to get involved and donate during their yearly runs. Having the app means users can keep up with what’s happening even when they can’t watch the stream, and encourages them to donate to charity directly through it.
Of course, if there isn’t a specific need or want for the app, it can seem rather pointless. There’s plenty of branded apps out there that really don’t need to be in the stores. For example, how many people really want an app from Veet that deletes Twitter posts for you? Or an app from Pop Secret popcorn that tells you when your microwave popcorn is done?
The scattershot approach to app advertising doesn’t work, but thinking about you audience and what their needs are does. When done well, you can see just how much further it can push your brand.