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Alzheimer's Research UK ‘The day Shazam forgot’ / Innocean Worldwide UK

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Having found that only 9% of people believe that dementia concerns younger people, charity Alzheimer’s Research UK wanted to point out that the disease can actually affect those as young as 40 and that over 40,000 people younger than 65 are living with dementia in the UK alone. In order to bring Alzheimer’s to the attention of young people, the charity collaborated with music discovery platform Shazam.


Last month Shazam users may have observed some peculiar behaviour in the app’s performance. The service usually allows users to hold their mobile device up to a piece of music and be given name of the artist and title in return. However, last month, users found it was taking longer than usual to return a result. In the period of time when Shazam is uncovering the information, a message appears on screen to tell the user that it is ‘listening’. Yet this time round users saw a variety of other messages from Shazam, leading viewers to believe that it was having trouble recalling the name of the track.


When Shazam finally found the track, the user was delivered a call to action from Alzheimer’s Research explaining the effect the disease has on memory and how donating to the cause could help the fight to preserve sufferers’ precious memories. The charity's adverts also ran on the app’s 'Shazam again' function page, on which half a screen’s worth of advert space is available to view when Shazam does not identify a song match on first listen.



Personifying intelligent assistant apps seem to be all the rage at the moment (see, Amazon Alexa, Cortana, Siri etc). Alzheimer’s Research UK’s work around Shazam is interesting in that it says, if we are going to popularize these human-like technologies, then let’s utilise these in a way that teaches us about real humans too. And the result does deliver quite a shock to the viewer. As the app falters, it reminds the viewer that humans do too.


Turning the usually reliable friend found in Shazam into a cause for concern, by replicating one of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s through the app’s behaviour, not only raises awareness of a worthy cause but is also a stark reminder of the world going on outside of mobile use. The choice of medium for the advert could be deemed a little flat in contrast to the complexity of the subject matter, but it is also the perfect channel to target young people who are almost always attached to their mobile phones. By educating them on the disease via a familiar medium, this should boost donations that can bolster important research around the disease, or at the very least make more young people aware of the cause and the need for it to be supported.  


Even if the campaign could be seen to simplify the effects of an obviously very complex and devastating disease, in all it achieves what it set out to do – to raise awareness of the disease among a younger audience. Results from the campaign suggest that the Alzheimer’s Research UK ads on Shazam gained over two million impressions and encouraged over 5,000 users to visit the charity’s donation page, proving the work to be a success.


Of course, Shazam also benefited from the campaign by aligning itself as a supporter of an important cause and a tool that wants to bridge relations between the young and the elderly. Yet, in another sense, it has revealed an innovative way of advertising via its media which may provide inspiration to other marketers.


Innocean worked with the charity on the campaign which ran during April this year.