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Finally – someone is injecting some sanity in the “we need our own app!” conversation…

“The false economy of vanity apps and the people who are growing fat by not telling their clients the truth”

Why do companies continue to throw away valuable mobile budgets on vanity apps, i.e. mobile apps that would never have been commissioned with the smallest amount of due diligence?

While coming from the mobile-Web-first school of mobile, mobiThinking does believe that there are many excellent download mobile apps. Indeed, the mobiThinking Guide to mobile awards and Guide to mobile agencies are stuffed full of app-related video case studies. Successful/popular/award-winning apps are not vanity apps. Vanity apps are those apps that make you ask “Why bother?” and “Why didn’t someone suggest a better way to spend your mobile budget?”

The scenario – The (any very senior exec) of company Y has an iPhone, and he’s seen the TV ads, so he wants an iPhone app. The marketing team thinks it’s a great idea because it’s the boss’s idea. The agency happily takes the money to create the app and/or develop the app,  and the app store takes the money to post (but not promote). Now the boss has his app and everyone else has pocketed the company’s money. Did anyone question if the app was the right way to meet the needs of che company customers, or how many of its customers even had an iPhone? Or whether they really wanted the company’s app cluttering up their handset? Did anyone guarantee ROI?

But how long will the boss’s vanity be satisfied with 50 or even 1,000 downloads for his vanity app? But rather than admit this was a fools errand, the marketing team goes into promotional overdrive to push the app…the app was that was supposed to be a marketing tool, now needs to be marketed. Hmmmnnn…

So now the agencies, media buyers, ad networks and publishers in TV, outdoor, print, Web, mobile, are getting a piece of the action. You now see mobile app ads everywhere. This isn’t mobile adding value to a cross-media campaign with a short code, mobile URL or quick-response code; here the entire advertising message is now “We’ve got a mobile app, please download it… oh go on, please”.

As long as CEOs, CFOs, CIOs or CMOs continue to commission expensive vanity apps for niche platforms, that need to be heavily promoted to the limited numbr of users of those niche platforms… which will continue to skew the mobile ad network reports… which all encourages analysts to make inflated predictions about mobile apps and advertising… which all encourages the boss into commissioning expensive vanity apps… while nobody spills the beans… which they won’t while the ad agency, mobile agency, app store, media buyers and ad networks continue to get fat on the proceeds… then this merry-go-round continues to go round. But it can’t forever. This ain’t going to last. We need more agencies to arm their clients with the facts about apps. Mobile budgets are slim, and if companies don’t get ROI, they are going to pull the budget altogether – and that isn’t going to help

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