The App Effect

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As lines mushroom around Apple shops in anticipation of the July 11th release of the 3G-enhanced, price-slashed iPhone, some agencies aren't waiting to capitalize on the hype--they're creating games and apps that will be offered through Apple's App Store, which launches the same day.

Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, for example, has used the development opportunity to update the job offering services of its client With its "Jobs" application, which will be available for download free through the store, the agency and client collaborated to combine the new iPhone's upgraded geo-locating and GPS solutions into a branding concept for CareerBuilder.

According to W + K, Portland's executive interactive producer Marcelino Alvarez, the "Jobs" concept was initially realized around the time of the agency's Super Bowl initiative--timed perfectly with the release of Apple firmware for the iPhone that included Microsoft Exchange support. "One of our Super Bowl launch ideas was to actually bring some of the experience to mobile," Alvarez explains. "The creative concepts [we had] within an iPhone app weren't really possible at the time. In February of this year, Apple announced the development of [the firmware] kit for the iPhone. So, we went back to our client and said by October that it was actually possible. We sat down with our client and we collaborated on what we really wanted to achieve with the mobile application. We essentially said that instead of bringing a campaign-focused effort, it makes no sense but to utilize CareerBuilder's search capabilities. That's what we really wanted to deliver, a geo-located search tool for the iPhone that was branded with"

When used on your 3G iPhone, the application automatically determines the city you're in and allows job-seekers to find openings using a simple keyword search. Within moments, you receive a list of all applicable jobs nearby. But the process to develop and bring "Jobs" to the notoriously guarded Mr. Jobs and Apple, along with the constantly changing technologies of the iPhone, didn't make the task easy.

"If you wanted to actually get support from Apple, you had to apply for an enterprise kit," says Alvarez. "Careerbuilder and Wieden + Kennedy both applied for the kit, and Careerbuilder received their approval first. So, we teamed up with their development team and our development team to put it together. One of the neat things is it's such a new arena to be developing in. The technology was so new and kept changing, [so it presented] a lot of challenges that you don't experience when you're doing a Flash microsite or banners. Apple had [its multi-process developer's kit] SDK version 1 out in February and by the time we [were set], they were at 8. Every time, they made some changes so you had to go back and look at your code and make sure you're doing everything right. But it was just fun to be at the forefront of the new technology."

With over 1.6 million job offerings, CareerBuilder's "Jobs" tool works very quickly according to Alvarez. But while one can search and find job links and enter their resume info into Safari all through their iPhone, the objective of the application is to open the door to your job hunt versus completing it. "That was one of the creative decisions we made early on, just watching a lot of the Apple videos," he says. "Specifically, they had one on the iPhone photo applications. You can bring all the editing tools and all that stuff, but what people really want to do is just see photos and send them to friends. We went through a similar exercise with the Jobs application. The iPhone does have a keyboard but are you really going to fully apply or type up your resume on your iPhone? Maybe not, but it does tap into impulsive behavior of people. If you're having a bad day at work and you're like, I'm done with this job, you pick up your iPhone and you search and see what's near you because you like the city you're in or if you're traveling, you like the city that you're vacationing in."

As the preview site of the App Store is currently up, touting the 3G iPhone's multi-touch web app power and association with the likes of eBay and on-the-go social networking service Loopt, another agency has opted for entertainment, including a free game into the mix. Minneapolis-based agency Hello Viking, created the "Viking Smackdown," a challenge featuring a character, Ivan Axe, testing players' accuracy in throwing axes at targets by tilting their iPhone at the proper time and making effective use of the motion-sensing accelerometer function.

"I thought we had to make a game because it would be cool for this kind of market," says Hello Viking COO Jennifer Iwanicki, a former director of production at The Barbarian Group. "I was holding my iPhone and doing what everybody does when they first get their iPhones going 'look, you can look at your photo like this and that. This is like casting a lure.' So I wondered if we could make a game using the iPhone's accelerometer. I talked to our developer, Aubrey Anderson, who used to work with me at The Barbarian Group, to see if we could do this and he said sure, I don't see why not. He had been doing some freelancing for Apple at the time. The thing we really liked was that everybody was talking about SDK coming out but this game wasn't going to have to rely on that. You don't have to download this. It's just a web-based game controlled by your phone."

According to CEO Tim Brunelle, a former creative director at Arnold, the timing of the game's release on July 7th was not only deliberately based around that of the new iPhone, but also as a celebration of his agency's first birthday. "The game play evolved as a conversation, but we thought it can't just be a game; there has to be scores and what do people win?," Brunelle recalls. "We do a lot of work in social media and blogging and thought we've got to build a community around this. Launching this game five days before the 3G iPhone comes out was deliberate –we didn't want to miss the opportunity—but the point is that you can use this game right now. The idea that there would be a bunch of people waiting in line at the Apple store to buy their 3G iPhone playing 'Viking Smackdown' on their current iPhone seemed kind of funny to us."

Hello Viking tied the game, which is playable on both the old and new iPhone and iTouch and features increasingly difficult levels to hit targets and rack up scores, into the offline world by creating a contest. The player with the highest score on the deadline of August 15th will fly from whereever their location is to Minneapolis all-expenses paid (on a date TBA in early September) with the chance to dress up as a viking and throw a cake directly at the CEO himself. "Part of it was to get people talking about it," says Brunelle. "Some [media folks] were like we don't know why you're launching this before [the 3G release] but that's the whole point. We're the only ones. There was that angle, but we wanted to make it a bigger story."

Of course, with the advances of the 3G iPhone and the opportunity to create innovative apps, Brunelle says the doors are open to pitch clients on new levels of engagement. "The iPhone user base will have a really great audience and it'll be great to be able to go clients and say, look how we can engage with people. It's not so much about them watching what we've created on it or clicking on it; it's another level of engagement. I think we're going to start to see these kinds of things where an agency jumps on the bandwagon and says we have to create a game on the iPhone around an original campaign. You'll also start to see other inventive uses of the tilt sensor and the GPS tools."

The Hello Viking CEO says that with the release of products like the 3G iPhone, the window of time is closing for brands to catch up to technologies that'll pave the way for the future of mobile. "There are [a couple of supposed] iPhone "killers" coming out, but they don't have accelerometers in it. For Blackberries, RIM is going to have to get into this space and Nokia is going to have to get into this space. Three years from now, if you don't have the GPS and motion-sensing capabilities, it's just not going to be a phone."
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