Example of a burst campaign

A burst campaign occurs when a marketer concentrates ad spend over a short period of time in order to boost the visibility of the app and increase installs. The primary purpose of burst campaigns is to move the app up the top charts in the major app markets. To better understand how burst campaigns work, and why they can be an important component of enterprise marketing strategies, it’s helpful to understand how top charts work.

Top charts

The App Store and Google Play both organize apps into a number of basic categories and subcategories, helping users navigate to apps that are relevant to their interests. Both Google Play and the App Store further assist app discovery by prominently featuring lists of top apps. For example, if you navigate to the Games category in the App Store, you can see Best New Games, Best New Updates, What We’re Playing, and other lists. In Google Play, each category under Games has it’s own Top Paid and Top Free lists.

There are a number of theories about the factors influence which apps are featured in the top charts, but undoubtedly, the popularity of the app (measured by the number of app installs) plays a major role. Considering that being featured in the top charts is the most common way for new users to discover apps, it makes sense that marketers go to great lengths to move their apps up these lists.

Enter burst campaigns. By concentrating ad spend in a short period of time, marketers hope to draw a large number of new users. The mass influx of new users moves the app up the top charts, increasing its visibility and creating more organic installs.

When to use a burst campaign

Burst campaigns are not appropriate in every situation, but the following examples outline opportunities where a burst campaign may be ideal:

  • Initial launch of an app: Remember, there are over one million apps on both Google Play and the App Store. Launching an app without a strong marketing campaign is a safe way to ensure your app disappears into the digital oblivion. Accompanying your app launch a strong burst campaign can help get your app moving up the charts.
  • A lull in app downloads: It’s common for the number of app downloads to experience some fluctuation. But sometimes an app remains flat for an extended period of time, or experiences an unexpected lull. In cases like this, a good burst campaign can be the thing to get the app back up to speed. As seen in the example below, installs for this enterprise app remained fairly flat for an extended period of time – and you can clearly see when the burst kicked in.
  • Peak season: It’s a well-known phenomenon that apps peak around holidays. Users often get new devices and are interested in experimenting with apps. Running a burst campaign around peak season can be a great way to pick up a fresh round of new users.

Potential problems with burst campaigns

The biggest drawback of burst campaigns is that user quality is notoriously low. In particular, burst campaigns don’t have a great track record of acquiring users with a high LTV. Users often uninstall apps from burst campaigns after only one or two uses. In theory, this might be acceptable – remember, one of the main purposes of burst campaigns is that an influx of new users will drive the app up the charts, making it more visible and resulting in more downloads.

For example, the enterprise app featured in the graph below had been experiencing low activity for several months. After launching a burst campaign in early March they were able to see a considerable spike in both paid and organic installs. At one point, organic installs were higher than paid installs, but most important, organic installs were able to remain at a level considerably higher than before the burst campaign (likely the result of being featured in top charts).

Best practices

Advertise on multiple ad networks: Ad networks have access to inventory on a variety of publisher websites. As an enterprise marketer launching a burst campaign, you’ll need to be able to purchase big blocks of ads. Working with multiple ad networks will give your ads a much broader reach. Some of the most popular ad networks for enterprise marketers include:

  • Chartboost
  • InMobi
  • Fiksu
  • Millennial Media
  • AdColony

Rotate your creative: Because you are going to essentially be flooding the world with ads for your app, rotating your creative can help your ads stay fresh. Repeatedly displaying the same ad to users leads to message fatigue and can actually have a negative impact on potential users.


Burst campaigns occur when marketers concentrate ad spend over a short period of time. One of the major purposes of burst campaigns is to acquire a large number of installs and move the app up the top charts on Google Play and the App Store. The best times to run burst campaigns is at the initial launch of the app, during peak seasons, or if the app is experiencing an unexpected lull. The biggest downfall to burst campaigns is that user quality is low as users have a low lifetime value and have a tendency to uninstall the app after a short period. Burst campaigns can be optimized by working with multiple ad networks and and rotating your creative.

Main image credit: tedits.files.wordpress.com

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