App Application Clusta

Appliance of science

By The Drum, Administrator

February 26, 2009 | 6 min read

How can novel interfaces be used to develop inventive and interactive digital marketing? Clusta’s Andrew Bowyer explores.

Developers and agencies once had it simple (or simpler) because it’s easy to impress people the first time round. However, digitally-savvy consumers have become very demanding very quickly and we’ve reached the stage where the quality of an application must be very high and preferably have a tangible benefit to the user.

The next major App Store development is the inclusion of a $19.99 section for premium applications from big name developers such as games giants EA as well as providers of more traditional business software solutions. This will help differentiate but the App Store has already become overwhelmingly crowded, with over 20,000 applications currently available. With those outside the Top 100 barely getting noticed it calls into question the effectiveness of using the App Store alone to market an application.


We are seeing data that shows TV promotion causes a huge spike in sales. The download data for applications on the iPhone show steep increases in the minutes immediately after the broadcast of a TV advert.

This is largely due to the short consumer journey from call to action – to App Store to purchase and download. Without conventional barriers in the way, and at the right price, the consumer will take a chance and not rely on the endorsement of the Top 100.

Of course, applications used as part of a campaign are generally free to download so the audience, if prompted by more traditional media, is likely to lap them up.

To encourage uptake and engagement we need to look at new ways to both involve the handset and deliver the call to action. We need to look outside the handset and see what it can enable in other areas. How can we use the handset as an interface to bring to life all those cool experiential / digital concepts that have lain dormant in the back of creative directors’ minds?

I know this is a hot topic in many agencies (regardless of size) and a discussion that is being had by the creatives and strategists rather than the tech staff.

Augmented reality (AR) is an area where creatives have been working hard to make something work for the planners. AR deals with the combination of real-world and computer-generated data, where computer graphics objects are blended into real footage in real-time. We have seen a few applications but it has yet to be fully exploited outside of novelty value.

Handsets should be the key – an interface to let users make sense of the technology out in the real world. While current smart phones are an order of magnitude more powerful than their predecessors, they are still underpowered when it comes to real-time video processing. With luck, we’ll see CPU power develop in line with creative campaign ideas to make use of this.


Digital outdoor formats such as Digital Escalator Panels and LED boards bring some exciting opportunities for smart phone interaction. Again, we’ve seen a handful of small-scale projects that see the content update in real-time. There is no reason not to, these platforms are updated in real-time via the web and either use a combination of Windows and Flash or OpenGL as per the iPhone.

Again, there are real opportunities for using web technologies, creative approaches and user responses – all familiar to digital creative agencies – but the last piece of the puzzle allows the user a very low entry threshold to interaction with this live, large scale content. The new generation handset may be the answer.

We shouldn’t be solely concerned with what’s happening on the handset on the 320 by 480 pixel screen. Why not use the bits we need to let people interact with and bring a new lease of life to existing channels?

Why not let users enjoy the success of the Wii on the largest scale possible? Who will enable users to play a game of tennis with their handset as a racket and the boards at Piccadilly Circus as their opponent?

I’m hoping one of our clients goes for my personal favourite: a real life game of the classic Frogger, where the huge screens track our players progress across four lanes of traffic with the iPhone’s accelerometer and location services performing their part. Ok, this does sound a little too “Running Man” for some tastes!

Web technologies on the ground and replication of experiential activity online are proving extremely popular and now is the right time for this sort of interaction.


Consumer research surrounding the Wii has opened our eyes, with numerous nuggets of insight that prove a whole new audience has been brought into gaming.

For further development of these technologies for greater integration in all branded activity, marketers should be using the smartphone handsets as a link between the online and offline worlds and as a link between traditional and non-traditional channels. Handset to digital outdoor, handset to web banners, handset to social networks and the wider web.

From my own experience there are some very receptive clients working through some feasibility studies in these areas but we are well aware of the obstacles as well as opportunities.

By connecting to existing, more trusted media channels to make new experiences, we’ll see agencies and brands take a little more risk with these technologies. For example, a campaign which relies on interaction between iPhone and rich web banners provides extra engagement for those with enabled handsets however still provides the exposure and CPM from the banner alone.

This quality vs quantity argument is an age old one. I have the greatest respect for experiential agencies that, I presume, have the constant battle to convince the client that quality of interaction should win out over the quantity of exposures. Digital has been used to great effect, often as a secondary approach, to support the offline activity and bring those numbers back into balance and make the budgets go further for number of exposures. This new era of handset interaction can be the bridge in bringing the areas together to make the most out of an experiential strategy.


Perhaps this supports what we have known for a long time, that experiential and digital are perfect bedmates. Too often we see digital used as a supporting element to an experiential campaign, however, the two areas should be married together, taking advantage of the two-way, word-of-mouth driven, quality-not-quantity nature of both channels.

After all, only brands who use pioneering digital design that compliments and works hand-in-hand with their marketing strategies will achieve excellent stand-out in a competitive and saturated market.

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