Second screen apps identify who paid for that political TV ad

By Cory Bergman Comment

The campaign season has officially kicked into high gear, and viewers in many states are beginning to see a barrage of political advertising. Most of those spots are financed by PACs of all shapes, sizes and political persuasions to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Two new apps, Super PAC App and Ad Hawk, listen to TV ads Shazam-style, then let you know who’s footing the bill.

Let’s start with the Super PAC App, the product of Jennifer Hollett and Dan Siegel, who met at a social TV class at MIT’s Media Lab. The iPhone app was their class project, and they timed the release right before the conventions. To use it, listen to a presidential TV ad and find which PAC paid for it, how much money it spent, the primary claims of the ad and whether or not they’re truth or fiction. You can also rate the ads with Love, Fair, Fishy or Fail. The app leverages YouTube in large part to identify ads, indexing new uploads as soon as they appear — even for ads targeted to different markets.

Nearly at the same time, the Sunlight Foundation — a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that aims for more transparency in government — rolled out Ad Hawk, an app for both iPhone and Android. This app was the product of Hacks/Hackers Philly and the Random Hacks of Kindness hackathon. Using the open source Echoprint for audio recognition, it identifies the PAC, shows how much was spent, displays where the ad is on the air, and it offers more information about the PAC and its spending history. Similar to the Super PAC App, it leverages the steady stream of campaign spots being uploaded to YouTube.

Both these apps are a great example of the niche opportunities of second screen technology. The apps were not too terribly expensive to make, and the ideas were born out of a social TV class and hackathon events. In other words, the barrier to entry to the second screen is dropping, and we can’t wait to see other niche apps appear in the next year.