Shazam CEO Andrew Fisher’s Three Social Super Bowl Takeaways

Shazam was a major player in Super Bowl XLVI. Here, CEO Andrew Fisher runs through what we can all learn from the company’s first time at the show.

Shazam CEO Andrew Fisher’s Three Social Super Bowl Takeaways

During last night’s Super Bowl, it wasn’t just Twitter and Facebook that were battling for social engagement on the second screen like the Patriots and Giants were on the field. A new player entered the stadium: Shazam, the popular Android and iPhone app that lets users ID and tag various types of media (music, TV shows, commercials) using their smartphones, and take a deeper dive into the content. The startup, which boasts more than 180 million users worldwide, made a big splash during the big game, appearing in ads from brands such as Best Buy, Pepsi, Bud Light, and Toyota.


The results? “We saw participation rates well into the seven-digit figures,” says Shazam CEO Andrew Fisher, who declined to provide detailed metrics. “We can’t be more specific than that now–it’s millions, not tens of millions.” That’s enough for the Shazam team to consider the experiment a success–not just for engaging consumers but for educating them on the value proposition of the second-screen app experience. “It may seem that 1% of the audience in North America is not a significant number, but remember: Last year, there were no Shazam-enabled adverts,” Fisher says. “We think that’s a really big statement.”

Fisher also considers the Super Bowl as much of an education for consumers as it was for Shazam and the brands that participated themselves. Here, Shazam’s chief exec runs down his three takeaways from the most-watched event in television.

Call To Action

Some of the Shazam-enabled ads during the Super Bowl requested audience participation, and provided clear incentives. If you Shazam’d during the halftime show, for example, you could download a free copy of Madonna’s newest single remix. Other ads offered rewards like, say, the chance to win a car or a gift certificate. “The ones with a call to action in the ads had far greater response rates, and actually saw tremendous results,” Fisher says. “It’s clearly influenced by how tangible the offer is that’s being made.”

The point here is that Shazam is different than other social engagement tools. While most brands will throw in a light request to be followed on Facebook or Twitter, Shazam, it seems, requires a more concrete value proposition. “We don’t see ourselves as something like a Facebook for social networking or a Twitter for conversation,” Fisher agrees.

Still, he understands why some ad partners might not want to promote Shazam so heavily in their own commercials, especially in the early stages of Shazam’s forays into advertising. “It’s $7 million for a 60-second spot, so to have any form of additional branding involved in your ad is a very significant consideration,” he says. “That’s why we had a mix of clients that felt comfortable to put the Shazam call-to-action in their ads, and we had others, frankly, who didn’t.”


Willing Consumers, Deeper Engagement

The most important lesson for advertisers, Fisher says, is that the value Shazam can provide to consumers for advertisers has to be value added. In other words, there is no sense in telling viewers to Shazam an ad if the content a brand provides is not worth the effort. “Unless the brands give a meaningful incentive or reward, then users just won’t do it again,” he says.

But Fisher was happy to discover that users were very willing to engage with worthwhile content. “From what we saw, we had low dropout rates on sign-up forms,” he says. “So for a lot of these giveaways, you had to give contact details or an email address, and we had very low rates of abandonment. People were not unnerved by the fact that they needed to provide some data in order to receive a promotion.”

The Shazam Fast Draw

For at least one Shazam-enabled ad last night, a logo for the app subtly appeared well into the ad, not seeming to offer viewers much time to react–that is, there were only a precious few moments for viewers to register that the brand was requesting them to Shazam, take out their smartphones, unlock them, find and open the Shazam app, and then try to tag the commercial before it moved on.

For some viewers, this may have felt like a gunslinger’s duel with the television screen. “We are very actively addressing it,” Fisher says. “We are investing in the performance of the service. The industry is trending toward 30-second ads–60-second ads are not the norm. So it’s very important that if somebody is motivated halfway through an ad, they’ve got enough time to take out Shazam. So we’re working very hard on performance to make it around about three seconds–that’s the target time now–to make sure we get results every time consistently, and far more quickly than you could do through any other device.”


Still, despite Shazam’s success and the lessons Fisher learned from the experiment, he believes the most important thing about the Super Bowl promotion would be gaining new business for the company. Fisher says the company has already seen big inbound requests from major brands this morning alone.

“For us, it wasn’t about last night. It was about how much business we’d win over the next weeks and months leading up to next year,” he says. “And we’ve already had more business in the first hour of this morning than we normally have in a full week for advertising campaigns. The phone has not stopped ringing.”

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.