Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pet Peeve: Shazam

For those of you out there gearing up for this year's Super Bowl commercials, we need to talk. I've noticed a highly disturbing trend. Thank goodness for this opportunity to expose it in all its grotesque horror. Be warned, and warn your children.

It started out innocently enough.  For those iPhone users out there, you might remember when you first booted up your sparkling, shiny new phone and discovered a magical little app called Shazam. No, not Shazam! the 70s TV show about Captain Marvel.  No, not Kazaam, the 1996 genie buddy movie starring Shaquille O'Neal. Just Shazam, the marvelous song tagging app.

I know, nowadays you've moved on to more exciting apps like Cards or you're still busy playing Angry Birds. You've forgotten all about Shazam and its instant novelty that you loved so dearly back in 2009.

Or have you? Few apps provide such a useful function. And now Shazam isn't just for Apple devotees. It's available on most phone platforms from Android to Blackberry.

For those who have missed it, Shazam is an app that helps you identify music.  You trigger the app and wait for it to "listen" to a couple seconds of that Duran Duran song when you can't remember the title, and after it matches the audio fingerprint to a database, SHAZAM! The app displays the song details (Ahh! Her name is RIO and she dances on the sand. Got it!).
I love Shazam. It's a great app. But methinks we've taken it too far.

Recently, I've noticed Shazam is being used in commercials on TV.  Why? Well, so you can Shazam them for...  I have no idea. Why on earth would anyone want to Shazam a commercial? What comes up when you Shazam a commercial? I will never know the answer.  I refuse to find out.  I will not Shazam a commercial until they promise to pay me real, cold hard cash for doing so.  You [advertisers] have paid big bucks for air time and production of these commercials.  Get out whatever it is you need to say out on the TV, while you have my captive attention.  I will not seek out more brand messaging and brain washing by Shazam'ing your commercial.  It's one thing for you to interrupt the latest episode of Top Chef.  It is wholly another thing for me to choose to subject myself to your inane characters and irritating jingles.

I first noticed the little Shazam icon in the corner of my screen during some obnoxious Old Navy commercials. My first reaction was rage. Who thought of such a horrible idea? First of all, I couldn't stand the cutesy pop tune in the commercial, so if the point was to connect me to the music, you've lost me already. But worst of all, these commercials were replayed so much that the mere sound of the music would make my skin crawl. I can't imagine the brave individual who dared to Shazam it.

Yes, Old Navy commercial stars, we are confused, annoyed, and bored by the idea of Shazam'ing this, too.  And no, Old Navy, I will NOT "Shazam Now!"

Hoping this was just a fluke, I was rudely surprised to find it a growing trend.  Over the holidays, there were Shazam ads by Marshalls and TJ Maxx.
The songs grew worse.  The Shazams became more prevalent. These are frightening times we live in.

I always figured the Shazam in the commercials had something to do with the music. Until the other day when I saw a Turbo Tax commercial using Shazam.  There wasn't any memorable music to this ad, in fact I think it was all talk.  I haven't been able to find it the offending spot on YouTube or managed to snip a picture for you, but trust me, it's out there and it's coming for you.

I think its too much. If I want more information about a product, I know how to find it.  We live in the Information Age. I disagree with creating a special, distinct layer of commercial hell by tempting viewers to activate an app on their personal cell phones to connect through the WiFi to the latest special offer.  Plus, Shazam "listens" to about 10 seconds of sound to map out the audio fingerprint.  You have to wake up your phone, open the app, and active the Shazam button in enough time to catch it. Maybe they expect you to pause your TV, rewind back the DVR and then Shazam their commercial so you can experience the hidden content.  I bet that'll be a very rewarding experience for the viewer.

Don't get me wrong.  I am someone who has looked up songs from commercials and downloaded them.  I don't think there's anything wrong with that.  Just to embarass myself, here are a couple examples of songs I found only because they were in commercials:

1. Montell Jordan- "This is How We Do It"
Yup, after I wrote my blog post about "Steve," I just had to have the song. 

2. Trio- "Da Da Da"

3. Shiny Toy Guns- "Le Disko"

4. Asteroid Galaxy- "Around the Bend"

5. This is the last example I'm willing to publicly own up to--I went old school after this Visa commercial with Renato Carosone- "Mambo Italiano."

It isn't an exhaustive list.  I hit up iTunes after watching many an iPhone ad, and many other older commercials that are nearly impossible to hunt out on the interwebs. 

Today it isn't considered artistic suicide for musicians to sell their songs for commercial use. Not only is it standard procedure, but for some it can really kick off a career. I've gotten accustomed to this and I've managed to find some arguably good (or at least fun) songs as a result.

But please, oh please, don't ask me to Shazam your tax software.

What do you think?  Do you Shazam?  Have you ever Shazam'ed a commercial? Does it inflame you to your core? Tell me about it either way.  I'm looking forward to your comments. And if you have Shazam'ed a commercial- what did it bring up? 

Regardless of your opinions, I hear that up to a third of this years Super Bowl ads will be Shazam enabled. When I open my Shazam app it tells me: "Use Shazam for the big game. Halftime with Madonna. Game Stats. Shazam-Enabled TV Ads." Keep an eye out. You know I'll be watching and shuddering.

For more Super Bowl related news, check out these posts:
Super Bowl XLVI- Honorable Mention For M&M's Ms. Brown 
Super Bowl XLVI: The Top Ten Best Commercials of 2012
Super Bowl XLVI: The Commercials Live Blog
Budweiser- King of Super Bowl Commercials
Volkswagen's Fat Dog New Beetle Star Wars Cantina
Matthew Broderick's Day Off
Matthew Broderick Returns as Ferris Bueller in Honda's New Super Bowl Commercial- Teaser
Volkswagen's Star Wars Dog Choir- Super Bowl Preview


  1. So funny. I haven't noticed any Shazam icons...yet. I will officially have my eyes peeled and boo every time I see one on my TV screen. I'm with you - inappropriate. It's a commercial in a commercial. Boo.

    1. I bet you'll notice them now, and I'll be boo'ing right along with you!

    2. AHHH! Just saw one on a Verizon commercial.

    3. Isn't it horrible! I was surprised we didn't see more of it during the Super Bowl, considering all of the hype. Maybe my post scared them off... *wishful thinking!*

  2. Shazam is the only app on my sucky Blackberry that didn't disappointment me. It's never failed, though I've only used it once.

    I didn't notice the Shazams in commercials. I sort of feel the same way about those QR codes you see all over the place on billboards and ads. Does anyone really bother to install an app, take a pic, and scan it, just to get linked to some more ads online?