For a TV commercial to get some attention on social media, it generally has to be funny, outlandish or awful enough for consumers to want to share it. But a partnership between Pepsi and a new iPhone app called IntoNow may have found a way around that.
IntoNow, which debuted in January, is a Shazam-like app that uses a four to 12 second audio sample to identify what TV show a user is watching , then posts a notification - "Doug is watching 'Community' " - to that user's social media streams, as well as the app's own news feed. The idea is to allow users to exchange comments with others as they watch TV, as well as to find out what their friends and people in their area are watching.
A "live now" button uses the iPhone's GPS feature to alert users to what is most popular among people in their region at any time.
Starting today, IntoNow users who "tag" a new PepsiMax commercial appearing on Major League Baseball broadcasts will receive a coupon on their phones for a free 20-ounce PepsiMax. The hope is that the tags themselves will serve as advertising for PepsiMax, and that other IntoNow users, as well as their Facebook friends and Twitter followers, will be motivated by the tags to seek out the commercial - and the coupons - themselves.
The TV spot features baseball greats including Rollie Fingers, Rickey Henderson and Ozzie Smith, along with current players like Evan Longoria and CC Sabathia, in a "Field of Dreams" inspired scenario.
Adam Cahan, CEO of Palo Alto-based IntoNow, said the app's advertising possibilities became apparent in the first four weeks after its release, when about 7 percent of the tags turned out to be for commercials.
"People were watching commercials and pressing the button to see what would happen," said Cahan. The only thing those users received was a semi-sarcastic message about the networks "needing to get paid," he said. "But it was obvious that people wanted to interact with the commercials." So IntoNow began approaching different companies about letting the app tag their TV ads.
For Pepsi, the deal represents the rare opportunity to tie a TV commercial directly to sales. Pepsi will be able to track the IntoNow coupons through the serial number on each phone, providing the company with data on who actually ends up sampling the product as a result of seeing the commercial. Sending coupons directly to phones also allows Pepsi to offer free sodas rather than a more typical two-for-one deal, because it can be sure that no single phone is getting more than one coupon.
The Pepsi commercial is IntoNow's first integration with a TV commercial, said Cahan, though the company is in talks with other advertisers, as well. He declined to name specific companies, but said that he had spoken to movie studios about offering tickets or free concessions when users view trailers, and that auto dealerships were interested in using the app to helps users find cars that they saw advertised on TV.
IntoNow, which is free in the iTunes store, has been downloaded 600,000 times since its January debut. Cahan said the company is working on an Android version, as well as a "native" iPad experience.
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
March 19, 2014