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Lexus, Chevron buy all ad inventory in CNN's new iPhone app

Luxury auto brand Lexus and oil giant Chevron are the first sponsors of the new CNN application for the iPhone and iPod touch, with logo placement and banner ads from both brands across what is arguably one of the most advanced mobile news platforms.

Available in the Apple App Store, the new CNN application is designed to provide a visually driven news experience for iPhone and iPod touch users combining pay-per-download and ad-supported monetization models. Lexus and Chevron are targeting CNN?s core iPhone demographic of professionals ages 25 to 54 who skew higher-income.

?Chevron and Lexus are each going to have a 50 percent share of the in-app inventory at launch,? said Louis Gump, vice president of CNN Mobile, Atlanta. ?They both have prominent sponsored-by notations and banners that are really integrated with the content in a way that is effective for advertisers and respectful to consumers.

?We have worked very closely with them to align with their respective campaign objectives,? he said.

Fuel for thought
Chevron and Lexus have an exclusive period over the next several months when they will be the only two sponsors within the application.

The two brands? logos appear when the application is loading, as well as when a video within the application is loading. The logos remain on screen for about seven seconds.

In addition, the banner ads from each brand drive to a full-screen mobile landing page within the application itself.

?It is very important to us that the app always stays open, so when consumers close the landing page for an ad, they go back the content that they were browsing previously,? Mr. Gump said.

Headquartered in San Ramon, CA, and active in more than 180 countries, Chevron Corp. is the world's fourth-largest non-government energy company, with a net income of $24 billion last year.

Lexus is the luxury vehicle division of Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp.

In Chevron?s case, the sponsorship is purely a branding campaign. Lexus is promoting its new HS Hybrid model.

While Chevron has been hush-hush about its mobile initiatives, Lexus recently tapped mobile ad network and site developer Crisp Wireless for a mobile advertising campaign on business magazine Fast Company?s mobile site. The Lexus effort is claimed to have received click-through rates of more than 10 percent, representing a fivefold increase over standard banner ads (see story).

Turner Broadcasting System Inc.?s Cable News Network?known universally as CNN?is a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc.

Citing Nielsen data, CNN.com claims to be the No. 1 destination for online and wireless news, garnering the greatest audience share in total minutes and page views and the most video and mobile usage among current events and global news sites.

CNN claims that its mobile Web site had 12.8 million unique visitors in July. CNN.com combines articles, videos, images, interactive features and user-generated content.

?Our overall strategy is to say, 'Hey, we already have a very successful mobile Web site out there with quite a bit of reach, but the iPhone brings capabilities we can only fully take advantage of through apps,'? Mr. Gump said.

?We can also do personalization much easier on an application than on the mobile Web.? he said. ?We want to give consumers the best possible experience we can build, an app that is very image-rich including photos and video.?

Capable News Network
Taking advantage of the features of iPhone OS 3.1, the new CNN application showcases news of the day through text, video and photos. It also features live video coverage of breaking news, push notification, localization and personalization tools, user-generated content capture and upload functionality through iReport.

The CNN application provides a direct gateway to iReport.com, letting users browse user-generated content, register and sign-in to their account or sign on as a guest to capture and upload user-generated photos and videos with the iPhone 3G S.

Users also can browse iReport.com?s latest assignments and stories, asking the community to weigh in on local and national news stories.

The CNN application features include the latest headlines, letting users flick through news stories across categories including Top Stories, World, U.S., Politics, Crime, Entertainment, Health, Travel, Tech and Living.

Additionally, when the device is rotated horizontally, stories can be flipped through quickly.

Each story features bulleted highlights above the full article, designed to satisfy mobile snackers, letting them scan through the latest stories while also meeting the needs of users who want the whole story.

Users can share stories via email, SMS and Twitter, as well as Facebook Connect by posting a story directly to their wall.

Personalization features under the My CNN tab include local news, weather and traffic based on each user?s actual location, as well as the ability to select a specific location.

Readers can also follow a particular story or topic. As CNN publishes breaking news alerts or new stories related to a chosen topic, the application will automatically push the updates to the device. 

In addition, the "Save content" functionality lets users access text stories that interest them anytime, anywhere, even when they are offline or without service.

The application provides consumers with access to live streaming video directly from CNN.com Live, a live multi-stream online video news service.

Moreover, the application offers access to a selection of on-demand video clips across many categories, including Latest News, Most Popular, On TV, U.S., World, Entertainment, Tech, Offbeat, Politics and Health.

The CNN App is available for $1.99 from the App Store on an iPhone or iPod touch or at www.itunes.com/appstore.

First-screen strategy
?We?re taking some of the best stuff CNN has and making easy to consume on a mobile device,? Mr. Gump said. ?This is not just a mobile event, this is a CNN company-wide event, and we putting heavy-duty marketing efforts behind it, including on-air, online and mobile.

?The on-air TV spots will be very visible, and we will also promote the application via online inventory and mobile banners targeted to the iPhone,? he said. ?It will be coordinated cross-platform effort.?

CNN wants consumers to see mobile as an effective medium for consuming content on the go.

?For people who are used to thinking of mobile as their second choice after an online site, we want to do away with that,? Mr. Gump said. ?We have plans down the road to expand to other smartphones, so we will be rolling out other premium apps for a wide range of mobile devices.

?Our mobile Web page is a high-traffic site available to anyone who wants to browse on a phone today, so that will continue to be our workhorse product,? he said.