Leave the App Development to the Professionals 

You know what makes me happy? That PR people stopped dabbling in mobile app development. Because, seriously, we were really not good at it.

Not like I let that stop me from dreaming up a “companion mobile app” for every major campaign I worked on between 2010 and 2013. I figured someone would eventually take me up on my idea to add a calorie counting app to support a diabetes prevention program or shrink the features of a new financial planning website to fit on iPhone screen.

They never did. And thank God for that because, I don’t know if you noticed, but those “ideas” have already been done. Leave it to me to try and recreate LoseIt! on an estimated budget of $7000.

The great irony is that try as I may to sell these sad little knock-off apps, I ended up inheriting one that was beyond saving. What was especially unfortunate was that it supported one of the few issues I worked on that I actually cared about: domestic violence awareness.

“What does the app do?” my boyfriend, a programmer, asked.

That was the problem. The app didn’t do anything. It listed some statistics and repurposed a fact sheet or two. I think it had a quiz about abusive behavior and for the grand finale, it linked to a whitepaper.

“Does it tell you where there are shelters in the area to go for help?” he asked.

I shook my head.

“Does it call the police?”

Nope.

“How about link you to a hotline for domestic violence victims?”

All good ideas – but no. The app didn’t do any of those things. And the client was so far along developing it that we couldn’t change course.

“Well that sounds like a terrible app,” he concluded. “You’re better off just designing something says, ‘GET OUT OF THERE!’ whenever you open it.”

I laughed. Because it was true. And it was heartbreaking.

But there’s good news! I just read that Vodaphone launched a way more practical version of that app in Turkey, where it’s estimated that 1 in 3 women is a victim of domestic violence.

Here’s how it works: the app is disguised as a flashlight function. When you shake the phone, it automatically sends alert messages to three trusted friends and informs them of the user’s whereabouts. Because they couldn’t advertise the product, the creators promoted it in makeup tutorial videos and on feminine product packaging. What’s more, the app evolves over time so that last month’s flashlight becomes a new feature in the next version.

The project was so good that it won an award for best media campaign at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Watch the campaign video here:

How amazing is that?

So amazing that it almost makes me want to start pitching apps again.

 

2 Comments
    • Totally agree – I hope they make them available everywhere! I looked around but didn’t see anything quite like it here. There was a news aggregator that sort of had the same idea, but it didn’t send the message… it just pushed to a hotline and some other information, which isn’t quite as helpful. Fingers crossed. & Thanks for reading!!

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