MediaMedia BuyingHow Target’s new ads show the real value of Shazam

How Target's new ads show the real value of Shazam

Target's ability to incorporate Shazam as a pillar of its latest ad campaign exemplifies the future of cross-channel innovation with the user experience at the core of brand strategy.

For about a decade now, marketers have been racking their brains trying to figure out the best way to link traditional ads with the Web. URLs came first, then hashtags and a call to action to visit Twitter. And while these tactics have certainly managed to boost engagement and interaction online, they don’t necessarily deliver the rich digital experience brands hope to provide.

A growing number of companies think they’ve found the missing link between offline ads and the Web: music discovery app Shazam, which now boasts 100 million active users. Among them is Target. Currently, the retailer is running a primetime TV commercial that invites viewers to “Shazam to Shop Now.”

When they do, the app pulls up a shoppable Target site page featuring the products seen in the spot.


According to Target, the appeal of Shazam lies in its ability to enhance the media experience and give customers a direct link to products.

“We learned very quickly on social media that our guests want easy access to shop the products that they see while they’re still top-of-mind,” says Joshua Thomas, a spokesperson with Target. “Shazam removes some hurdles that may have existed in the past.”

Target’s use of the tech doesn’t end there. This fall, it ran a lavish 11-page ad in the September issue of Vogue magazine, in which it recreated iconic fashion styles using only Target products. This too leveraged Shazam, with information on about 30 percent of the products featured available on the app for consumers to access.


Shazam has traditionally required music to launch its app and related brand content. However, the print portion of Target’s campaign, which was created in conjunction with advertising agency Mother New York, employs Shazam’s visual recognition technology that was introduced back in May. Users open the app, tap the camera, and pass their mobile phones over the Shazam logo to initiate a digital interactive experience. Featured products can be purchased on the spot as well as shared with friends.

“It’s less about the fact that it’s sexy technology, and more that it allows us to give Target guests a more meaningful and richer experience,” Thomas says. As he notes, the release of Vogue‘s trend-heavy September issue is a much anticipated annual event, and Target wanted to be part of that pop culture moment.

“We’re a retailer – we’re always looking to ring registers,” Thomas says, “but we’re also joining in on a conversation. On the surface level, the images are beautiful and fantastic to look at. Very simply, Shazam has allowed [Target] to bring people into the experience by showing the image that was the inspiration for the ad, along with fun, snackable content and the ability to shop the product.”

Mobile technology has changed significantly since Shazam was first founded back in 1999. Initially intended to identify music, Shazam for iPhone came to market in 2008 in tandem with the launch of Apple’s App Store, and expanded its functionality to TV in 2012.

Shazam has worked with such brands as book publisher HarperCollins, The Wall Street Journal, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Jaguar, and Honda in various ways – from unlocking clues to branded scavenger hunts, to generating additional TV ad content.

However, the app hasn’t been without its detractors. Shazam reports that its “shazamable” TV ads can generate higher ad recall, brand recall, and brand likability, but some have noted obstacles to inciting the desired consumer response.

Earlier this year, Mediacom’s managing director and head of digital and analytics, Steve Carbone, said that TV buyers’ interest in the app has waned. “The user experience of pulling out the phone, pulling up the app, and Shazamming all in 20 or 30 seconds is just problematic,” he said.

But what if viewers simply had to tap a button on their Apple Watch or Android smartwatch? Shazam now offers its app for both, ostensibly making it easier for consumers to pull up the tool when needed. Couple this evolution with Target’s recent success using Shazam across platforms for greater awareness and a more cohesive campaign, and Shazam’s advertising future is looking quite bright.

Shazam has even begun to offer brands more than enhanced ads alone. ClickZ reported in June that it has partnered with Mobext, the mobile division of global advertising and PR agency Havas, to provide the company with valuable consumer data that could allow them to predict the future popularity of songs to “connect brands to relevant music.”

Between the TV spots and the Vogue feature, the latter representing Target’s first use of Shazam’s visual recognition product, the retailer says its “really encouraged” and will continue to look for new ways to “add a layer” to the brand experience. In fact, this may be a case where it’s the customer who comes out on top. The harder brands and their tech partners work to improve cross-channel advertising, the more interesting it stands to be for everyone.


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