How Adspace Shazams, With Help From Mood

November 18, 2014 by Dave Haynes


I was intrigued by the Adspace announcement Monday regarding its partnering with sound recognition app company Shazam to create a new type of engaged digital OOH advertising in US shopping malls.

I think of people firing up Shazam when they want to do a little Name That Tune or Name That Band. But not so much for Buy This Here.

Turns out Shazam is only kinda sorta doing the audio watermarking thing that drives sonic calls to action to shopper phones, from Adspace screens. It’s actually Mood Media‘s tech with Shazam using an SDK.

I caught up with Mood’s Chief Product Officer David Van Epps, who gave me the rundown on how this all works:

Q – So this is Shazam, and it isn’t, correct? This is Shazam using Mood’s Presence technology through an SDK?

mood400Both are correct.  Mood:Presence is the enabling digital watermarking technology, but without the Shazam app that’s already been downloaded by over 500 million users, there wouldn’t be a common platform that consumers already use every day.  Shazam integrated the Presence SDK into their app several months ago.  The Presence watermarking makes a true “activation” possible in retail stores, theaters, or in the case a digital signage display.

Q – Can you walk me through what’s happening technically, and where Presence hands off to Shazam? 

At a high level, Mood provides Shazam both a series of digital “watermarks” and a software encoder that allows them to add our signal (either sonic or ultrasonic depending upon the application) to specific content.  When that content plays in the public space, the standard Shazam app, already installed on millions of phones is capable of detecting the signal.

It’s an important point of distinction to note that there’s no push going on. The user is consciously choosing to “Shazam” the content based on being prompted to do so with a visual or separate audio cue.  “Shazam this ad for special offers”.

Once the user Shazams the content the app goes out to the cloud and based on the watermark key, the Shazam server returns unique media to the screen.  If you’ve Shazam’d any music content previously, you know that you typically get the song name, artist, label, lyrics, some places to purchase or stream the song and other artist information.  In this case, the tiles you see would be different.  They might link to enhanced second screen content, a special discount offer, a link to download another app from the sponsor, or a movie trailer.  Anything that can be served up from the web can be returned to the users screen once they Shazam the content.

Q – How does it work with the CMS?

If you’re referring to the digital signage CMS, that’s the beauty of the entire work flow.  There’s nothing new required.  The content is delivered with the encoded signal already embedded.  It’s traffic’d like any other piece of digital signage media.  It will likely just have the Shazam symbol and a call to action already embedded in the lower third.  Any existing signage network with audio capability can deliver Shazamable content. Partnerships are already being established with network providers and Mood can provide all of the necessary tools to add Shazam campaigns to out of home networks.

Q – What’s the user experience and what has to be in place for that experience, ie Bluetooth on and Shazam installed on a phone?

Yes, to make the content “Shazamable” you’ve got to have Shazam on your phone.  Mood’s Presence SDK is capable of listening for either our watermarks or a bluetooth beacon.  We’ve built the the Presence platform to universally work with either technology and an app developer need only to integrate our SDK to be able to take advantage of both location based technologies.

In the Shazam case, as stated above, the user is prompted to Shazam the content for a special offer or more information.  They open Shazam as millions of people already do organically each day and push the Shazam button on their phone.  The app detects the signal, pulls the corresponding information and it’s returned seamlessly.  Instead of just music, the user is getting more information of special offers.

Q – How do you find the balance between welcomed and intrusive messaging on a phone? In other words, is one message in a mall OK, but three or more in one shopping trip crossing some undefined line?

In the case of Shazam, it’s all in the user’s hands.  They don’t get anything that they aren’t asking for.

Me – Well, shoppers aren’t necessarily asking for prompts, so that’s a debate point.

Q – Is the experience comparable to beacon technology, and is Presence and beacon tech competitive or complementary?

It’s completely complementary.  It’s another tool to create targeted messaging at the point of engagement.  As I mentioned above the Presence SDK can “listen” for either our watermark or a BLE beacon.  All of the magic is happening up in the cloud where the app is just making a data call based on detecting the signal and then returning the specific data to the phone app.  What’s on the screen will vary depending on the app involved, and the Shazam partnership is terrific as it’s already one of the top 10 apps on peoples phones, so they can use it without having to do anything new.

Q – Where else and how else is Presence being used?

The true business viability of any location based marketing technology (digital watermarks, geo, wifi or beacons) is only going to come from mass engage.  For that to happen, there’s got to be a common platform or app that users stay engaged with.  Shopkick, RetailMeNot and other shopper apps are all working to gain scale and active users. The Presence SDK could be integrated in any number of these apps and we’ll continue to work towards enhancing our partnerships. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, or the next “big thing” are all possible at some point as well, but we think our Shazam partnership is a great fit for Mood because it’s so music centric at it’s heart and music is our core capability.

What makes Presence so exciting for Mood and our clients is the fact that we’ve already “wired” the retail world.  Sound systems playing Mood’s music programming are already installed in hundreds of thousands of retail, restaurant and hospitality locations around the world.  We’ve already turned on the Presence signal in over 175,000 locations in the US without rolling a single truck, shipping a device or changing a battery in a beacon.  With our Shazam partnership, we could active campaigns all over the country almost immediately.

We’re currently running a Shazam in-store music campaign in Office Depot/Office Max locations through the holidays.  Mood is the in-store music provider for these brands so we’re inserting the Presence signal into their music streams and Office Depot/Max is offering special holiday offers when customers Shazam the in-store music.

We’re also currently installing an in-store private television network in QSR locations around the US.  We have large deployments in the DC/Maryland area with Wendy’s (about 150 locations) and we’re currently installing 750 McDonald’s locations in Southern California.  Presence will certainly play a roll in these networks as the we continue to expand.  More to come on Mood:TV and I’ll certainly keep you updated on our progress.


Interesting. I like that this is so readily integrated into retail environments, with rolling trucks and techs and without any CAPEX hit. I also like that this blends sonic and beacons. Beacons expert Doug Thompson pointed out by email, having asked him what he thought, how a company focused on sonic – called SonicNotify – rebranded this year s Signal 360, to better blend beacons and sonic.

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