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New app Ad Hawk identifies political adverts and provides the user with details about how each ad was funded, who is behind the ad, and also offers contextual information about the parties responsible.
Over the last couple of days a lot has been written about Ad Hawk and its ability to undermine, or simply expand on, political TV advertising in the run up to the US election. Here's a video of the app in action:
Basically, the app works in a similar fashion to something like Shazam or Soundhound; it uses your smartphone's microphone to identify political adverts and then supplies information about how the advert was funded, which party it is in favour of, and also supplies contextual information such as how positive or negative its messages are.
The app sells itself as a way to become an informed voter, but what if it, as service, was extrapolated to ALL TV advertising?
Informed voters become informed purchasers
Obviously Ad Hawk wouldn't be able to, or necessarily wish to, display the same kind of related information about a McDonalds ad as it would about a party political broadcast, but imagine if it displayed latest news articles about a given brand - here's a scenario...
An advert for Shell is on your TV. Ad Hawk or a similar app delivers the latest stats about the company, including its financial performance, and also the latest headlines related to the brand. One of them is this:
You go on to read the article, which expands on Shell's astronomic security expenditures and includes quotes from activists expressing concern that this activity is 'further destabilising the oil rich region and helping to fuel rampant corruption and criminality.'
How does this affect your purchasing decision next time you're looking to fill up? Do you stop at the Shell garage or do you drive 5 minutes further to Sainsburys? And also, does this completely undermine the point of the TV ad in the first place - to present to you, the viewer, the ideal vision of Shell? The Shell that helps communities, sponsors charities and generally does nice stuff, films it and shows it to you with extremely high production values.
Would anyone actually use it?
Who would install Ad Hawk? Probably the kind of people who are already cynical about advertising and are simply seeking validation.
However, what if the app was an add on for an internet TV? Imagine if Ad Hawk stats popped up during every ad break. Or, imagine if it was a browser add on - it would make sitting waiting for annoying YouTube ads to finish a lot more entertaining.
Ad Hawk acts as a corrosive presence for the marketer with something to hide, or even the marketer interested in presenting one vision for a brand. However, what it also does is extend the internet's anxiety of information effect - we are bombarded with so much data, we retreat in fear to what is comfortable (i.e. the pleasant existence presented by the advert), or become distracted to the point that we take nothing in - neither the good nor the bad.
Whether Ad Hawk will diversify its service or a similar app will come along to take its place, time will tell. I, for one, will be watching with interest.