Review: Super Bowl Companion TV Apps

The Super Bowl is as much about the ads as it is about the game. However this year, the scale may have tipped slightly in favor of the ads – at least in terms of emerging media integration, which has had some of us Lab boffins rather excited.

This was due to the formal debut of a new genre of companion TV apps, which leverage the second screen to keep the often distracted viewer involved in what they’re watching. As Lab research has revealed, smartphones and tablets are now the biggest distraction when it comes to TV advertising.

I committed my Super Bowl to experimenting with some of these apps, which meant that my game was spent hyper-alert with a trigger-happy finger hovering over my iPad. Now, if only all TV viewers were always as engaged…

Here is what I found:

The best companion TV apps are ones that actually require you to be watching the content for you to check in.

For this reason, my favorite was Yahoo’s IntoNow iPad app, which uses audio-watermarking technology to know what you are watching and serve complementary content while doing so. Checking into the actual Super Bowl took a few tries, but eventually I succeeded and was rewarded with extra game commentary.

IntoNow’s only brand integration was with Pepsi Max, where if you synced with the TV ad, you were automatically entered into the “Pepsi Max for Life” sweepstakes. But this didn’t matter since IntoNow had tagged all the Super Bowl ads which meant that they all served up extra content, as my Audi check-in example shows.

Coming in a close second was Shazam, the music tagging app which is making in-roads into the TV market. I liked this experience for the fact that it was again smart enough to know what I was watching; but it was only able to recognize half the ads, and even then it wasn’t clear which of those they were due to lack of signage. In the end I had to do a search to know which ones to look out for.

Another small gripe was with Shazam’s error message: “Sorry a match could not be found for your music” etc. The messaging needs to be updated to include TV, as it had me second-guessing whether Shazam was compatible with TV at all.

Checking in to the synced Shazam ads revealed a number of brand integrations. I checked into the ad and immediately found that I had raised $1 for charity.

This was a bit of a surprise as it had nothing to do with the TV ad, and I did not consent to doing this, but I concluded that the one-step donation had potential.

It’s worth noting that Shazam has the advantage of a 180M user base which it inherited from a previous life, which is why it seems further along the path to monetization.

Paling in comparison for me were Miso and GetGlue, the other two apps I played with. The main weakness of these apps was the fact that you had to manually search and check in to the show. This meant you didn’t actually need to be watching the Super Bowl at all, and made checking in to those apps less of a priority.

All in all, as interesting as these companion TV experiences were, you’d have to have had inside information to know they existed. No doubt, though, that the Super Bowl will have done its bit to punt this new genre of TV apps out of obscurity.