Okay Google, How Should I Vote?

Voice search could be the next frontier in political advertising

Brian Young


As I filled out my mail-in ballot during the recent midterms, smartphone in hand, I used Google to pull up a ballot guide from New Era Colorado. Then I remembered my Google Home Mini was in the room, and I thought to myself, Is anyone asking Google Voice who to vote for? Who would it suggest? So I asked.

As our dependency on voice search increases, it will likely affect voters’ perceptions of candidates. We’re are already beginning to trust Alexa’s voice as a subject matter expert. An Adobe Analytics survey reports that as of August, 32 percent of consumers own a smart speaker, and adoption is trending up. Of the consumers surveyed, 47 percent report using the devices for online searches, and another 46 percent ask for the news. Between 2010 and 2016, aggregate voice search queries grew more than sevenfold.

Facebook, Google, and Amazon are running out of places to run ads. This isn’t a new problem: Facebook sold out advertising space in its news feed in 2016. Couple that with tech giants recently taking huge hits in the stock market, and it’s likely that we’ll see voice search monetized to increase revenue. With a record-breaking $8.93 billion spent on advertising in the 2018 midterm elections — and digital ads making up nearly 22 percent of that — we can be sure Amazon and Google will look to increase those numbers. The favored ad capacity release valve will be voice search.

Consider the “Echo” chamber. It’s in Google and Amazon’s best interests to tell users what they want to hear.

While consumer brands are concerned about being the top result for “nearest coffee shop” or “best dish detergent,” political advertisers need to worry about a bigger question: “Alexa, who do I vote for?”

In the 2020 presidential election, people will ask these devices about candidates and ballot initiatives. Unlike an internet search, there are no second answers. You can’t scroll down Alexa’s results for an unbiased opinion — that’s just not how we interact with voice search. So advertisers should be asking: How can we make sure Alexa is finding our ideas first?