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Voice-activated advertising
Jun 04, 2024

Voicing out on voice-activated ads

Chris Yu
Author Chris Yu

Voice-enabled technology has steadily integrated itself into our everyday lives, even so in marketing. Learn more about how voice-enabled advertising is revolutionizing the user experience.

Hey Siri! Set an alarm for 7AM.

Hey Google, turn off the lights.

Alexa, what’s the name of this song?”

You may have heard somebody utter these statements recently or something along these lines. You may even have said them yourself at one point. Smart devices (such as Google Home and Amazon Echo) and virtual assistants (like Siri and Alexa) have changed the way users interact with their devices and ultimately, opened the world up to new possibilities.

Such possibilities include opportunities for the integration of voice-activated technology in advertising. Audio advertising isn’t something new. It has been around for a while and comes in different forms such as podcast advertising.

However, it hasn’t reached its full potential, as there are still facets of audio advertising that have yet to be utilized to its full extent, such as voice-activated ads or voice-enabled ads. 

Devices and technology capable of streaming audio content are highly accessible to consumers and its rate of consumption is growing. That said, marketers are starting to see the potential of interactive audio ads to engage users in more ways as well as target new audiences they want to acquire.

Voice-activated ads at a glance

Voice-activated advertising (or voice-enabled advertising) refers to the usage of voice technology to deliver ads to users. Consumers would hear audio ads that are delivered through voice assistants or smart speakers, typically activated by voice commands or integrated into existing content (such as podcasts or music streaming services).

This type of interactive audio advertising works by using natural language processing (NLP) to understand user requests and deliver ads. Consumers interact with the voice-activated technology through which the device records the audio and sends it to a server for analysis.

The server then uses NLP algorithms to identify the user’s intent and then delivers an appropriate ad in response. As a result, we have interactive voice advertising

Some ad interactivity options include interactive audio ads where customers interact or engage with the ad with a simple voice command. This could be through the ad’s call-to-action (CTA) where users can input a voice request to add to a cart or respond to the ad – the device completes the request without disrupting the streaming audio content. 

Another interactivity option is through branded experiences. These are longer-form experiences users can engage with using their voice. The experiences let brands start a dialogue with customers, offering a variety of paths and engagement options (such as a voice-based car showroom).

Voice-enabled ads are a form of programmatic audio advertising, as it is a digital ad placed in an audio form that uses algorithmic buying to automate and streamline the ad insertion and selling process. 

Examples of voice-enabled ads

Estee Lauder uses voice-activated marketing for its serum

The cosmetics company Estee Lauder launched a voice-activated digital audio campaign called “Send Me a Sample” to launch its Advanced Night Repair serum. Spotify and Google Home users had a chance to receive a free sample of the serum when they said “Send me a sample” at the end of the audio ad.

Burger King triggers voice-enabled technology devices in its Whopper ad

Back in 2017, Burger King launched a 15-second ad that featured users saying “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?” This phrase would trigger the Google Home devices of those listening to the ad (and in turn, read the Wikipedia entry for Burger King’s iconic Whopper). The ad gained widespread attention, highlighting the early potential of voice-activated advertising.

Downton Abbey movie’s promotion through Amazon Alexa

Focus Features launched an exciting “choose your own adventure” branded experience called “The Downton Abbey: A New Era” using Amazon’s Alexa. Users could activate the experience via a voice command of “Alexa, launch the Downton Abbey experience.”

This would guide listeners through a voice-based experience that provided them with the option of participating in trivia, a behind-the-scenes tour, or purchasing tickets for the movie.

The value of voice-activated advertising

Voice-activated ads offer a lot of value and potential for brands. 

A study by NPR and Edison Research shows that 53% of smart speaker owners who have heard an ad on their device say they would respond to ads on their smart speaker. Additionally, almost half of the smart speaker owners who listened to ads say that – compared to hearing an ad in another place – a smart speaker would make them more likely to consider the brand. 

This means brands can achieve a much higher engagement rate and ROI if consumers are more likely to respond well to ads they can interact with through voice commands or voice-activated technology. 

Voice-enabled ads also bring a better, seamless user experience. Since users interact with voice assistants and smart speakers in a conversational manner, voice-activated ads can integrate easily into the user’s experience. Specifically, brands can connect with listeners by facilitating a voice response with more information.

It also lets consumers engage with the ads hands-free while performing activities like cooking or exercising. That means ads are delivered to consumers with little to no interruption to their user experience or everyday activities.

Voice-enabled advertising also allows for more personalized ads based on the user’s preferences and behavior. Take, for example, Pandora.

After initial testing in 2019, the music streaming service expanded more on its voice control features with the addition of voice-activated ads. Only listeners who already hear ads will be offered the voice-activated ones, which ask the listener to agree to hear additional content (users must actively say “yes” to initiate). 

Ultimately, this can lead to higher conversion rates and a better return on investment for advertisers because brands get their message across to consumers. 

Another benefit to voice-activated ads is their resistance to ad blocking. Ad-blocking tools have not yet invaded the digital audio space. They are only designed to target visual display ads,  audio-based campaigns can quickly resolve this growing problem. 

That said, voice-activated ads have a high chance of accurately targeting and advertising to their users without running the risk of ad blockers and disruption of user experience.

Final thoughts

Voice-activated advertising (and interactive audio ads in general) offers a refreshing and engaging type of user experience. While it is still a niche marketing format (both on the advertiser and consumer side), it offers a unique option for marketers looking to stand out and target segments in an unconventional way.

In a world where technology is constantly evolving and the usage of AI in advertising is growing, voice-enabled marketing could very well be the “new normal” of audio advertising’s future.

To see more from illumin, be sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn where we share interesting news and insights from the worlds of ad tech and advertising.

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