Small ad studio makes Big Leap into App Development

in iAnnouncements (E)

[] Champaign, Illinois - On April 3, 2010, Matt and Candace Hutton, Chris Phillips and John Turner stood outside of the gleaming Apple store on Michigan Avenue like hundreds of others, impatiently waiting for the tablet revolution to begin. But little did they know as they exited the store on a hazy day in Chicago that they were holding more than iPads. They were holding their future in their hands.

"When you're a small shop, you have to be adapt to new technology," says Hutton, partner and creative director for Spinlight Studio, who together with his wife and two business partners represent the entire staff of the small advertising agency based in Champaign, Illinois. "Since we first touched the screen, we wanted to try our hand at app development for the iPad," says Phillips, partner and senior designer. "The recession just provided the motivation." So, with traditional print advertising in decline, the company began applying the same design skills they'd honed over a decade in print and web design to apps, focusing on the education market as a potential revenue stream.

Within a year, the company had six titles for the iPad - Swapsies, TallyTots, AlphaTots, TableTots, Yodel-Oh! and Operation Math. And just about every one of them received major attention from Apple. From What's Hot to Staff Favorites, Apple plugged the company's apps throughout the iTunes AppStore. Two apps made it into two separate Apple Education Spotlight emails, while three were enshrined in special collections within the iTunes store, leading to a major spike in sales.

"There's nothing like the rush that comes from watching an app you had a hand in pass titles from big names like Disney and Oprah," says Turner, partner and senior copywriter. And for Spinlight, that's already happened twice. On March 19, 2011, TallyTots shot onto the daily Top 100 list of all apps selling on the iPad, reaching 80 overall. And two months later, AlphaTots did even better, reaching no. 45.

"Right now, only a few companies are really enjoying success on the level of someone like Angry Birds," says Hutton. "But when you consider that there are over 500,000 third-party apps available in the iTunes store, we've done really well." From AppTudes to, Spinlight apps have made the short list of recommended kids apps on a wide range of review sites, as well as 13 different Top 100 iTunes lists in 58 countries around the world. And now, the company is aiming higher, releasing apps that appeal to a slightly older demographic.

"Operation Math could very well become our biggest title yet," says Hutton. The spy-based math game for kids 5-12 has only been out since December, but Apple has already thrust it squarely into the spotlight, giving it a three-week banner promotion in education. "With so many new developers jumping on the bandwagon, the scene is getting pretty crowed. But there's always room for intuitive, well-designed apps that reward kids for learning. And over the next few years, we're hoping you'll see a lot of those titles from us."

Spinlight Studio is a full-service advertising agency and award-winning education app developer, headquartered in Champaign, Illinois. Founded in 2000, Spinlight entered app development in 2011 with a string of Top-100 Education titles for the iPad and iPhone including AlphaTots, TallyTots, TableTots, Swapsies and Operation Math. Spinlight apps have earned numerous distinctions from top reviewers including, AppTudes and Teachers With Apps who named Spinlight Studio one of the 10 Outstanding App Developers of 2011. In 2012, Spinlight expanded into the Android Market, bringing the popular Tots Education Series to both the Android Marketplace and Amazon Appstore for Android. Copyright (C) 2012 Spinlight Studio. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPod and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.


Matt Hutton
Partner and Creative Director