AutoWeek Credits Success of First iPhone App to Mobile Campaign

  |  December 28, 2009   |  Comments

Mobile ad buy in the U.S. and overseas gives magazine brand's app a needed bump.

Why some iPhone apps become must-haves while others languish is still a mystery to many marketers. But AutoWeek, a 51-year-old magazine breaking into the app market for the first time this winter, has learned that promoting one properly plays a pretty important role.

For its first iPhone app, AutoWeek stuck to the basics: it would stream news, photo galleries, and auto show highlights from the magazine's Web site. The challenge was getting the word out to the target audience: auto hobbyists as well as consumers in the market for a new car.

To reach its existing audience, AutoWeek put prominent ads for the new app, which was available free, in its magazine and on its Web site. But to reach car enthusiasts on their cell phones, they enlisted AdMob, the mobile ad network that Google recently agreed to purchase for $750 million.

"Even while we were working through the design phase of the app we worked directly with AdMob, took a lot of their input up front about what kind of app would play best in the market," Marc Mathies, interactive operations director at AutoWeek, said. "And then when we went to market they helped us very rapidly get an adoption of the app and downloaded the app more rapidly than we could have done on our own."

The app, which was created in conjunction with a third-party developer, launched on November 2nd, and did fairly well in its first week, reaching number 37 on the list of news apps. The AdMob mobile display campaign in the U.S. launched November 10 and ran for only two days, with simple text ads appearing on mobile sites popular with car enthusiasts directing them toward the AutoWeek download.

By the end of the brief U.S. campaign, the AutoWeek app had reached number 10 in the news category and had broken into the top 25 list of iPhone apps overall. The app experienced four times the number of downloads during the week after the campaign than the one before it.

An international mobile campaign followed, again lasting just two days. Afterwards, the AutoWeek app climbed from number 18 to number 5 in the U.K. news category, from number 37 to number 8 in Canada's, and most notably, from number 90 to number two in Australia's.

AutoWeek, which is based in Detroit, did not track which downloads came directly through the AdMob ads. But Mathies is confident that the app wouldn't have performed nearly as well without the mobile promotion.

"Generally we see very small growth from promotions on our own media, so I would attribute 90 percent or greater to the AdMob effort," he said.

More than a month after the end of the campaign, Mathies said the app continues to move briskly. "Since the promotion has finished we still are maintaining several hundred downloads a day, so I would say even though the marketing efforts are finished, the residual effects keep going."


Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.

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