Google and Volkswagen have teamed up to create an experimental ad campaign called “Smileage” that aims to deliver a “social driving experience.” VW is branding “Smileage” as a social app that allows drivers to chronicle their journey in real time and connect with friends while on the go.
Smileage can be used as both a mobile app and web service and functions as a trip journal with a twist. It measures the weather, traffic, location, time and social interactions during any road trip and uses these metrics to gauge the “fun factor” of each trip. The more fun you have, the more smileage you earn. For example, a leisurely Sunday drive on a sunny afternoon will generate more smileage than a rainy, traffic-jammed Monday commute.
Drivers can use the app to take pictures, record video and tag friends along their journey, which will be added to a live interactive map that friends can then comment on. Users can sign in with their Google account and pair the app with their car — it works with any brand, not just VW. The app will connect automatically when users are driving and will continue to run in the background.
Based on VW’s “It’s Not the Miles, It’s How You Drive Them” campaign, Smileage is meant to turn car trips into a more social experience. The idea came to Google after a recent study showed that, on average, 144 million Americans spend 52 minutes driving per day — 76% of them alone. The company saw an opportunity not only to turn a primarily solitary experience into a social one, but also to engage consumers with a new form of advertising.
The campaign is part of Google’s Art, Copy & Code project, which looks to reimagine advertising for the digital age. Smileage in particular examines the opportunity for reinvention in the mobile realm. More people are using their mobile devices over their laptops, but as far as advertising goes, mobile devices are like the unexplored frontier, a sort of “Apps or bust?” situation.
Advertisers like Google and VW are trying to find new angles into the mobile market without alienating users, proving that VW is once again revolutionizing the advertising industry. With apps like Smileage, the two companies intend to provide useful content for users to create an experience that’s more engaging for consumers. The app is meant to be fun so drivers will want to use it, and in the meantime it’s a valuable branding opportunity for Volkswagen. Brands and advertisers need to make sure their ads are reaching consumers on every platform, and Smileage allows brands to connect with customers in a natural way.
Development of such an app underscores a major shift in advertising that is becoming more prevalent throughout the digital arena. In an age where traditional media is fading, advertisers are looking to do more than just present or highlight their product in a one-way ad. Instead, the emphasis lies on engaging and building a relationship with consumers. This way of branding can create a strong loyalty in consumers, which is what Volkswagen no doubt intends to do with their Smileage app.
For now, the app is only in beta. This limited release of Smileage follows another common advertising trend (particularly with Google products) where companies use the idea of exclusivity to create hype about their brand. Those interested can sign up for the beta version at Smileage.VW.com.
Look for more on the Lab as we follow the development of Smileage and Google’s Art, Copy & Code initiative.