Watch an ad on TV, get a free Pepsi. Simple concept, tough to execute. But that will be a reality with a new app that allows users to "check in" to TV commercials, starting Wednesday.
Here is how it works: Consumers download the iPhone check-in app IntoNow and hit it while the commercial plays on TV. Audio-fingerprinting technology then recognizes the ad and a coupon gets downloaded to your phone for a free 20-ounce bottle of Pepsi Max.
Hopefully, for PepsiCo, that transaction then gets shared out to the user's connections on the social TV app, as well as to Facebook and Twitter. Pepsi has agreed to honor as many as 50,000 such coupons as an experiment in both driving trial of Pepsi Max, as well as the potential for interactive TV ads.
The Pepsi Max spot features a "Field of Dreams" theme and many major league baseball players past and present. The spot, already on YouTube, will air during MLB games and through the end of the year.
IntoNow's fingerprinting technology knows not only what consumers are watching, but also if they're watching it live or delayed on a DVR or some other kind of recording device, key information for advertisers. It will even work on the YouTube clip of the ad (so go ahead and give it a whirl).
The deal is the first major brand implementation for IntoNow based on audio fingerprinting technology spun out from video ad server Auditude earlier this year. Auditude spent years recording and fingerprinting a multitude of TV programming from 130 major national networks. Initially that technology was intended to recognize shows and insert ads online; now it is being used to allow consumers to "check-in" to shows to let their connections know what they're watching.
CEO Adam Cahan said it takes the technology only four to 12 seconds to recognize a given clip. "If it has aired on TV in the last five years, its in our catalog," he said. "Our coverage is pretty big. There are a few things that are missing. We don't have movies until they hit the premium channels, and we don't have truly local content."
What IntoNow does have is an audience already tagging TV shows -- 3million tags and 600,000 downloads since the app was launched in January.
IntoNow is not the first to give consumers a reason to check in to TV commercials. Shazam, the original audio-tagging service for the iPhone, powered a giveaway where the first 1,000 users that tagged an original song during an Old Navy TV add got a free pair of jeans. The music video spent several weeks on Ad Age's Viral Video Chart due to its popularity on the web.
The difference, said Mr. Cahan, is that IntoNow has indexed enough TV that users can check in to any TV ad or even a live broadcast. It has a catalog of TV that is as comprehensive as Shazam's is for music.
In the case of Pepsi Max, the app shows marketers not only who is paying attention to the ads, but also allows them to reward that attention, as well as drive offline behavior.