Shazam, the mobile app that recognizes snippets of music and retrieves artist information, can be a real friendship-saver when you’re drunk at a bar. Say an old tune comes on the stereo — “Everyone says it’s just like rock’n’roll” — and your buddy swears it’s a Rolling Stones’ classic. But you, you know that’s Marc Bolan’s baritone cooing “It’s plain to see you were meant for me.”
So right before it comes to fisticuffs between two lifelong mates, you pull out your smartphone, load Shazam and take a sample of the tune. A few seconds later, the app displays “Twentieth Century Boy” by T-Rex, and your friend tearfully apologizes before buying you a shot. Then you have another round in memoriam of Mr. Bolan, no matter that it’s Tuesday night — no, Wednesday morning, the clock on the bar reads 1:15 a.m. Maybe you should pack it in… But wait — “Stuck in the Middle With You” starts blaring and both of you can’t remember that stupid band’s name. Out comes Shazam…
You might have noticed those TV commercials for retailer Old Navy featuring mannequin-esque teenyboppers dancing to mind-numbing pop songs — the auto-tuning laid an inch thick on top of generic melodies — while donning the latest threads from Cheap Gap Old Navy. The spots, brought to life by long-time Old Navy creative partner Crispin Porter + Bogusky, invite viewers to use Shazam to “tag” the commercial to find out who these up-and-coming pop sensations are. Users who do are entitled to free downloads of the song, “style tips” (I only take those from H&M… And occasionally Hot Topic. Shhh!) and, most important, discounts at their local Old Navy outlets.
Bringing in Shazam is a fantastically current way to add an interactive element to a traditional media campaign and boost engagement, but the music is the biggest problem — these artists aren’t real. Granted you can label any major-label pop artist as a product of the machine, but AgencySpy’s Kiran Aditham, who previously held my position at Adotas, hit nail on the head when he labeled first Old Navy Records’ artist Audio Threadz “Fakeass Black-Eyed Peas.”
They’re simulacra of pop stars — the artists on Old Navy Records are supposed to remind you of someone you’ve already heard on the radio. Audio Threadz appear to be a younger, fresher version of Fergie, Will-I-Am and the crew. The commercial featuring the music of a group called “Marche” simply has dancer Tyne Stecklein dancing on-and-off a bunch of layers — goodness knows who is actually singing. Search for anything on Audio Threadz and Marche on the Internet and you’ll only find links related to Old Navy.
Every time I catch one of these Old Navy commercials, I ask myself, Should I know who that is? He/she reminds me of someone. That’s the hook — Old Navy’s Shazam campaign could contain a music discovery element, which would be perfect for the teen audience the retailer is trying to reach. Pop stars have always been pretty damn disposable (now more than ever — remember when the Jonas Brothers ruled the world?), but these “artists” are performing one-off jingles — who would be excited to download those?
At the beginning of April, Shazam released data about the initial two weeks of the campaign. With a reach of 38 million consumers, 0.3% tagged the commercial (which the company notes is three times the average display click-through rate) and 27% of the taggers made a purchase, downloaded Audio Threadz “Super C-U-T-E” track and/or viewed additional content.
There’s a lot of potential in using an app like Shazam to add an interactive element to a television campaign, but there’s something very hollow about Old Navy’s approach. (Then again, my pop-music-hatin’ skills know no bounds — Lady Gaga’s new song “Judas” sounds like “Bad Romance” remixed by a 90s industrial act. Why don’t people listen to more snobby classy stuff like Godspeed You! Black Emperor?) I’m guessing the deals make it all worthwhile, which must be why Pepsi is going a more straightforward route using IntoNow, which can recognize TV series from a sample.
Tag a Pepsi Max commercial with IntoNow and get a free 20-ounce bottle of the zero-calorie wonder from a participating local store, which the app locates for you. Simple and efficient, yes, and probably very effective. But as much as I may mock it, the Old Navy campaign takes a much more exciting (if flawed) approach to using these kinds of apps for brand initiatives, truly highlighting the many marketing angles.
We’ll definitely be seeing mobile apps like Shazam and IntoNow used as interactive elements of future brand endeavors. While the Pepsi Max campaign is IntoNow’s first branded campaign, its currently in talks with movie studios, carmakers and CPG companies about future efforts.
By the way, if you guessed Stealers Wheel as the band that wrote “Stuck in the Middle With You,” you are correct. Bonus classic rock question: who wrote “I Shot the Sheriff” — Bob Marley or Eric Clapton? No cheating with Google or Wikipedia.