It’s not quite time to endure the onslaught of televised political ads, but it’s coming, so be prepared. For some that means ensuring that the mute button works, but for political junkies it means finding out who paid for the ads.
For the junkies, the Sunlight Foundation has a new app that may help. It’s called Ad Hawk and you can install it on your iPhone or Android device.
It works a little bit like Shazam, an app that helps music fans identify the artist, song and album title when they hear a new song on the radio. Ad Hawk basically uses the microphone on your phone to listen to a political ad. It then takes the short audio fingerprint to match against a database of ads that Sunlight collects to help identify the ad purchaser. It also spits back media reports, spending data from the Federal Elections Commission and the Federal Communications Commission to help determine whether the ad is part of a purchase that includes other states where the ad might be running and information about how much the buyer spent.
It’s not clear if Sunlight is using state-level data in its database, so Ad Hawk may not be a great resource for the gubernatorial race. But it could come in handy for the congressional races and the ads that are often designed to influence voters but are cloaked as “non-candidate issue ads.”