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VW Races to iPhone with GTI Ad-App

Volkswagen is, not surprisingly, launching a marketing campaign for its upcoming 2010 Volkswagen GTI. What is surprising is that the campaign is rolling out in the form of an iPhone App – and at least for the time being - will be limited to that platform.

The free app, which is called "Real Racing GTI," puts players on the fictional Mayapan Beach racetrack, and is tied to a contest in which, the New York Times reports, registered players can win one of six limited-edition GTIs.

Other features of the Firemint-produced app enable users to post racing times to Twitter, add results to Facebook, or rip a video of the race to YouTube.

Jump for Adver-Gaming

The strategy is a significant development for adver-gaming, according to Andrew Yoon at Joystiq. "A car manufacturer using a video game as a promotional tool is nothing new; Toyota generated a lot of buzz with its laughably bad (but free!) Yaris on Xbox Live Arcade two years ago."

What's new, he wrote, is that Volkswagen is releasing a free iPhone game in lieu of a traditional advertising campaign. "Don't expect to see any television commercials for the 2010 GTI - for now, Volkswagen is committed to promoting its new vehicle exclusively through its App Store game."

The Volkswagen ad illustrates the extent to which gamers are becoming increasingly important to marketers. The Nielsen Company recently added capabilities to its rating software, in fact, to enable advertisers to better identify TV audiences by several new categories - including  video gameplay.

The ad-app also points to other trends, namely marketers experimenting with innovative - and lower cost - campaigns to reach this constituency. Volkswagen hopes that through word-of-mouth alone, Real Racing GTI will be able to garner at least two million downloads, Yoon noted. "Considering the comparatively low cost of this promotion, coming shy of that benchmark probably won't be too devastating."

Hard Times for Auto Companies

In a separate report at the beginning of this year Tim Ellis, VP-marketing at Volkswagen of America’s VW brand, said that car companies will be canceling conventional auto promotions as they “trim the fat” wherever they can while retaining “core media properties and launch budgets.”

The gaming industry as well has been equally affected by the economy; until recently sales were in a six-month slump until September when NPD Group reported a modest increase in sales.

The economy aside, the video game industry's distribution channels are in a state of flux - a trend that the Volkswagen ad appears to be leveraging.

Selling games on disc or cartridge in a box at the store has become the “last-generation” way to sell games, Mark DeLoura, a video game technology consultant with Satori, told the E-Commerce Times.

“As we’ve all seen, World of Warcraft is making a ton of money through subscription revenue, a handful of companies have made quite a lot of money selling iPhone games, and a few companies - Zynga, SGN, Playdom, Playfish etc - are making good money making social network games tied to services like Facebook,” he said.

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