"I got hit by a deer."
"A deer hit you?" As a parent, you get accustomed to questioning your kids on their passive sentence construction. Deflecting responsibility linguistically is a reflex for them. But a flurry of SMS exchanges later and it turns out that in fact a badly misguided deer had run headlong into the side door of my daughter's two-month-old car as she passed it on a Pennsylvania highway.
"Yeah. Car is bent. Deer seemed surprised."
"I gather it was another uninsured deer?"
"It didn't stick around to exchange cards. Shook it off and ran back into the woods."
The incident reminded me of the first time I wrote about my daughter in this column, in 2007, with "My IPhone Needs a Gun."
Back then, my maturing and bikini-clad little girl was attracting boys on the Cape May, N.J. beach. Dad was hoping for an iPhone rifle attachment that might graze a few of these land sharks with a rubber bullet or two. Now, the girl could use some small arms fire on her own smartphone to scare off charging bucks -- the real ones.
And by odd coincidence, the gun enthusiast brand Guns & Ammo has launched a new outreach for people just like her. And the effort is led by an iPhone game app.
"Oh, Pennsylvania. You have to be careful there," says Ted Gramkow, vice president, strategic sales & marketing, at InterMedia Outdoors when I tell him my daughter's tale. Yeah, tough deer territory there. Apparently they are proactive animals that try to take out the cars before the cars can take them out.
The hunting and gun enthusiast brand that lives in magazines, online and on TV is using a new iPhone game, "Guns & Ammo: Point of Impact" as the leading edge in its effort to bring younger people into the sport of shooting -- as well as women and folks like core Apple fans who may not be the sort to don hunting fatigues and caps with earflaps. "It is a way for us to get in front of new faces and go someplace we hadn't been before," Gramkow says.
Sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the game is in fact a recruiting and education effort as much as it is a credible game. The aiming and shooting is but one piece of an app that also includes a highly detailed gun store, an outline of gun safety (which you need to practice in order to play the game itself) and links to gun clubs, the NSSF and other ways of connecting to the hobby. In the last two weeks alone the app has enjoyed 300,000 downloads, and the G&A promotion is just getting started. And in order to reach beyond the iPhone segment, the same game also lives at the brand's Web site at http://www.gunsandammo.com/pointofimpact
A couple of things interest me about the G&A game. First, there is more product placement and sponsor integration in this title than in any game I have seen in mobile. From Remington shells to Bushmaster, Ruger and even Caldwell targets, the app is stocked with product placements. The gun manufacturers are present in the gun store, with each firearm sporting a highly detailed 3D model of the product. Apparently it took days to render each of the weapons accurately. "There was no way to know what a CPM would be," says Gramkow. "We priced the [placements] at $25,000 each."
That Gramkow got so many sponsors to take a leap of faith with an unproven model is a testament to the enduring power traditional media can leverage in mobile if they put their minds to it. G&A is a decades-old brand with client relationships that stretch back just as long. The company also has a number of levers to pull in promoting its game app, from an email mailing list of over a million to the magazine, and a TV series, all of which will run ads. "We have an advantage over the more independent developers who don't have the ability to market like this," he says. Of course there are more than a few media companies who have marketing muscle, too, but they have yet to marshal it so effectively to enlist so many clients in this deep an integration.
Whether an iPhone game app helps the sport of shooting to expand its base into demos like my daughter's is anyone's guess. Not that it would do any good with her anyway. In this part of southern Pennsylvania at this time of year, a driver would need to strafe the woods with an Uzi to fend off the potential hazards.
"Stupid deer," she grumbles.
"Did it get hurt?"
"Well I don't think he enjoyed it. Seemed a little confused. I think there is a mushy-brained deer prancing around the woods of Pennsylvania now."
"And a couple of thousand in body damage to your door."