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Interactive Annual 17:

VW Real Racing GTI

Launch App

“Branded games can be really difficult to master, but with solid CG and intuitive interaction this one’s a winner.” —Adrian Belina

“Mobile apps are the new banner ads. If you’re going to market with a mobile game, make sure it’s playable and genuinely fun. Volkswagen did just that.” —Jared Benson

Overview: Volkswagen wanted to launch the 2010 GTI in an unconventional way that would turn the heads of core GTI fans as well as the general public. Recognizing the overlap between the car’s tech-savvy target audience and the iPhone’s extensive customer base, the choice was made to launch the GTI exclusively through an iPhone app. Since the app was the exclusive marketing channel for the launch, it combined hard-working sales functionality in a way that never broke the game mechanic or brand experience. It offered three fully playable tracks, six different GTIs to select from, a special showroom section with a custom animated trailer, a 3-D spin-around with interior and exterior features and a link to register to win one of six 2010 GTI MkV1 limited-edition cars.

  • • On launch night, the game was the number 6 trending topic worldwide on Twitter and in 2 days it was the top app in the U.S. and within 1 week had become the number one app in 36 countries.
  • • With a 97 percent lower cost-per-sale than a traditional launch, sales figures are impressive: nearly 200 cars were sold to registered players; there was an 81 percent increase in leads and an 86 percent increase in test drive and quote requests; a 63 percent increase in brochure requests; a 76 percent increase in dealer lookups; and more than 50 percent of sales to new VW owners as compared to 25 percent on average.

Comments by John Deschner

How did this project compare with others you’ve worked on in the past? “The secret weapon was timing. This was a singular opportunity, and the secret to its success was being prepared to take advantage of it. The fragile economy, the surging interest in mobile marketing and the maturity of the App Store platform were all aligned to let Real Racing GTI break through. And there’s no formula for doing it again, except to be ready for the next opportunity.”

How did your relationship with the client evolve over the course of the project? “This was AKQA’s first campaign with Volkswagen and was our first iPhone game launch. It’s the sort of thing that agencies probably pitch relatively frequently, but rarely get to produce. The unique combination of a forward-thinking client, a hot technology product and platform, a heavy pr push and good timing let the campaign break through in ways that surprised everyone. Real Racing GTI was a great way to kick of our relationship with Volkswagen and it’s allowed us to continue to do things most mobile agencies of record might not get a shot at-like the recent Jetta Gilt campaign.”


Jefferson Liu/John Whitlock, art directors
Jon Lee, writer
Eric Lohman, senior designer
Ginny Golden, associate creative director
Brendan DiBona, executive creative director
John Deschner/Jonathan Hum, strategy
Laura Breines/Erin Chandler/Sarah Cheffy, strategic planners
Jon Reiling, Flash programmer
Firemint, game developer
Ian Richards, technical lead
Douglas Smith, technology director
Plastic Wax, animator
Heavy Melody, sound designer
AKQA (Washington, DC), project design and development/ad agency
Volkswagen, client

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