iPhone App Advertising

by Brook Lenox on June 18, 2011

A lot has changed in the iPhone App Advertising space in the past couple years.

First, you didn’t have to advertise much. In the first few months the app store was open, just creating a great lite and paid app, and updating it often worked really well. There were relatively few apps being updated often, so that added exposure could give you a nice boost in downloads. After the first 3-6 months, I think that strategy got tougher and tougher. Many more apps were being added daily.

Second, you could get a small combination of marketing activities (PR, iPhone app review sites, forum posts, and Youtube reviewers) together and this could give you a nice lift in ranking to launch your initial app. I’d say this worked in the first 12 months after iTunes was launched.

After 12 months it became increasingly harder to market your app with out spending advertising dollars.

So where do you spend advertising dollars today to marketing iPhone apps?

You might try:

  • Ad Networks
  • Incentivized Download Companies
  • Promotional Companies

There are pros/cons to all of these. Let me know give you an overview of each and what I see as their pros and cons.

iPhone Ad Networks

Here are some things you should know about iPhone Ad Networks:

  • These iPhone ad networks promote your app in other iPhone apps
  • Examples of these ad networks include¬†Admob, Millennial Media, and iAds
  • You pay these iPhone ad networks typically per click (~ $.05/click minimum for Admob and $.25/click for iAds)
  • They have the ability to track how many downloads they generate for you
  • You run a test with them, say $500-$1,000 to see if they can help you achieve your cost/download goal

iPhone Ad Network Pros

Here are what I see as the pros to working with iPhone Ad Networks:

  • Relatively easy to get set up
  • You can spend as little as $50 with Admob (but will need to spend more if you want a true test)
  • Most of the time (iAds not included) you don’t have a big $$$ commitment

iPhone Ad Network Cons

Here are what I see as the cons to working with iPhone Ad Networks:

  • You don’t always get the results you want*
  • Driving more downloads doesn’t mean you are driving revenue
  • Some of these ad networks, iAds for example, have minimum spend commitments

* Typically you spend in order to increase your downloads, which increases your rank, which increases your organic downloads. I’ve seen this work. Unfortunately, I also know of developers that have spent $75 and did not seen a single download.

Incentivized Download Companies

Here is how they work:

  • These companies promote your app in other apps (user is given the chance to download your app in exchange for something they want)
  • The user typically gets some reward (i.e. poker chips, coins, etc) for downloading your app
  • You pay these companies (Tapjoy, W3i, Flurry, etc) per download

Incentivized Download Company Pros

Important note: In April 2011 Apple began to reject apps that promoted incentivized downloads. So, although you can still work with these companies, this form of advertising looks like it’s going away.

Here are what I see as the pros to working with iPhone Ad Networks:

  • Also fairly easy to set up
  • You can increase your ranking quickly if you have $$$ to spend
  • Many of these companies can promote iPhone and Android apps

Incentivized Download Company Cons

Here are what I see as the cons to working with iPhone Ad Networks:

  • #1 con – looks like this type of advertising is going away
  • You are not really driving “real” users*
  • Since these users might not want your app, it could negatively impact your star ratings

* So if you don’t drive up your rank enough to get a lot more organic downloads, it’ll not be worth it. These people weren’t looking for your app. They wanted something else and had to download your app to get it.

Promotional Companies

I call them promotional companies because they have some unique way of promoting your app. The best of these offer something that consumers like and help developers drive ranking through a big spike in downloads.

The two that come instantly to mind are App Circle from Flurry and Free App a Day.

How Flurry’s App Circle works:

  • Flurry’s got relationships with thousands of developers
  • They’ve convinced those developers to put a “more apps” button within their apps
  • Flurry will promote you in those “more apps” sections on a cost per download basis

How Free App A Day works:

  • It is mostly for paid apps. You make your paid app free for a certain number of days
  • Free App a Day promotes that now free app to it’s thousands of users and you soar up the charts
  • I currently see several apps they’ve promoted in the pass few days (Chop Chop Soccer and Top Girl) in the top 100 free
  • In most cases you pay them a flat fee for promotion

Promotional Company Pros

Pros for promotional companies (say that 10x’s fast!):

  • You can get your app in front of thousands of users
  • You might see a nice spike in app ranking
  • You can pay per download in Flurry’s case, so you minimize your risk

Promotional Company Cons

Cons for promotional companies:

  • Like all these other solutions you have to have a significant budget to spend enough to make a difference over time
  • In the case of Free App a Day, you might create a nice spike, but it won’t last
  • Again in the case of Free App a Day, you might upset some users going from paid to free to paid again

So there are many different ways to spend marketing $$$ promoting your apps. Hopefully this gives you some direction in where to start. Best of luck!

Photo credit: U.S. National Archives, edkohler

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

laura October 14, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Is there some post where you talk about game as a publisher? where you as developer receive a revenue for the advertising on your game.

Brook Lenox October 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm

@laura – the article might help – top iphone ad networks. I would also look into iAds.

laura October 17, 2011 at 9:11 am

Brook thanks for your answer, it was very usefull!

Rajat November 6, 2011 at 10:27 am

Great article!

Brook Lenox November 20, 2011 at 9:29 pm

@Rajat – thank you.

Brook Lenox November 20, 2011 at 9:31 pm

@laura – you are welcome.

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