FOR THOSE OF US WHO WATCH THE SUPER
Bowl for the advertisements, one
force outweighed everything else
in last week’s folly. Not the doggies
(says a dog person); not even Betty.
Shazam, the smart-phone app
that your friends showed you five
years ago as a way to push a button,
hold up your phone and identify
whatever song was playing, wherever
you are, showed up with gusto
at the 46th football extravaganza.
By now you’ve seen or heard about ads from
Toyota (win two Camrys!), Best Buy ($50 gift
certificate!), Pepsi (free video!), Teleflora (secret
offer!) and Bud Light (halftime show with remix of
Madonna’s new single!).
Talk about reach and frequency.
Shazam is based on audio content recognition,
or ACR. (The “A” in “ACR” goes by “automatic” in
the lingo, too.) Its whomp-like force at the game,
just as the ACR category is getting going, raises one
undeniable question: What now for the ACR technology
races? Game over?
To answer that, this week’s Translation looks at
some of the dis-or-dat fractures that were fragmenting
the ACR scene, even while Shazam was readying
its first interactive ad (for Pillsbury, in December).
Let’s list them: TV or tablet; ad or program; watermarking
Because the size of the tablet/phone market,
so far, is substantially bigger than that of Internetconnected,
app-loaded televisions, most of what
happened in this year’s game occurred on the latter.
ACR enthusiasts point out that most, if not all,
connected TVs sold this year will include some
form of ACR — in many cases, on-chip.
For TV makers, because there is no standard
for ACR technology, it means due diligence on intellectual
property before selecting which technique
to license. By my count, there are some 10 ACR
contenders from which to choose: Audible Magic,
Civolution, IntoNow and Zeitera, to name a few.
The “ad or program” fragmentation is a tough
one, because of the pesky matter of monetization.
Why make a show interactive if it can’t pay
for itself? Yet, if consumers learn that the clickable
thing uncovers an ad, will they click when it
blinks up on a show?
On the tech side, there’s the dis-or-dat of
watermarking vs. fingerprinting. Short version:
Watermarking inserts code into the signal. The
app on the other end extracts the watermark to
sync the interactivity with the show. Fingerprinting
extracts info from the stream, compares it to a big
external lookup table, then syncs the interactivity.
This is not to say that Shazam is without
challenges. As Live Digitally’s Jeremy Toeman
pointed out: “The viewer must grab their phone,
turn it on, unlock it, switch to the Shazam app,
and then — this is important — get everyone in
the room to be quiet for 7-10 seconds.”
Nonetheless, as Super Bowl champions go,
Shazam is pretty much it, this year. What does
this mean for the large contingent of ACR contenders?
Better up the A-game (pun intended).
Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at