A new dimension in digital advertising is here, and it has the potential to fundamentally change how we interact with sponsors. Spotify has launched voice-enabled ads which add an interactive angle to the audio ads that run on the free version of the platform. For the moment the project is limited in scope to the US market, but if the results are promising you can expect this type of technology to roll out across the world – and across all audio platforms.

Advertisers have long sought out different ways of getting attention and initiating action on the part of their target audience. Digital advertising has slumped in this regard as the web has been flooded by media formats that trick people into clicking. Despite social formats like swiping up on Instagram stories, the actual action that a consumer takes is really limited to clicking. One click can have only one outcome without adding extra steps to the user journey. And as we all know, each added step means losing more people.

Can you hear me now?

Voice-enabled ads provide an alternative. Instead of having one possible outcome, there can be multiple options that prompt different actions. For example, an ad can tell me about a new product, and I can speak to the ad in the following ways:

  • “Tell me more” launches a deeper audio description of the product
  • “Show me” launches a photo gallery or product video
  • “Search for it on Amazon”
  • “Share this with my wife”

You get the idea. And the conversational aspect is arguably the most natural way to interact with an ad. Think about it, each website that you visit you have to figure out where each function is. This is why websites have started to become standardized. If you can’t find what you’re looking for because the design gets in the way, the site will not perform.

Audio doesn’t have that problem. Even though we all speak differently and there might be a thousand different ways to express the same thing, the overall arc of conversation follows the same logical paths. Audio ads can even pick up on customer sentiment, asking questions like “What do you think of this?” and recording the ratios of people who say things like “wow that’s cool!” or “what the fuck is this ad?”

The time is now

Two major trends are in the process of converging which makes all of this possible. The first is the rise of major audio platforms that can accomodate advances in technology and pioneer this type of ad format. Spotify recently passed 100m paying subscribers around the world, making it a giant with deep pockets. The reach alone has attracted advertisers for years running traditional audio ads. This is the next logical step.

What’s more, audio content in general is experiencing a boom. Between audio books and podcats, people seek out more and more audio content which is leading to new types of sponsorship, but since people can’t really click on audio ads, the ROI has been tricky to establish. Voice-enabled ads provide a clear answer to this dilemna, so it will certainly catch on in some capacity.

The other major trends is the proliferation of headphones that are equipped with microphones. Nearly everyone has a way of speaking into their phone in a natural way, be it through Apple earpods, Bluetooth headphones, or over-ear headphones. The microphone is crucial since it means people can respond without having to pick up their device.

An important addendum to this point is also the increasing number of people who listen to music through voice-enabled speakers, without which it would be impossible to have voice-enabled ads.


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