What Voice-Enabled Advertising Means for Streaming Audio Apps, Advertisers and Listeners

Dialogue advertising — where listeners interact, via voice, with brands — is likely coming to a mobile app near you this year. Instreamatic.ai’s CEO, Stas Tushinskiy analyzes how this emerging marketing strategy affects brands, publishers, and consumers.

The arrival of AI-fueled voice-enabled advertising is now poised to transform streaming audio apps delivering music and podcasts, spurred by new opportunities to realize a host of audio-specific advantages beneficial to advertisers, publishers, and listeners alike. The drive to embrace change in this space is evidenced in a series of recent moves by major industry players. Pandora, the largest streaming service in the United States, has plans in place to test interactive voice advertising on its platform, which will allow its listening audience to speak aloud and respond conversationally to ad content. Similarly, Spotify is now serving as the testing ground for voice-powered ads that respond to verbal commands.

This new form of ad engagement leverages voice AI and natural language understanding to facilitate verbal interactions that go beyond simple commands or yes-or-no responses, instead allowing app listeners to interact through natural conversational responses as if they were speaking with a live human. These ads engage listeners via microphone-enabled devices, prompting them with verbal calls-to-action, such as to download an app or to learn more about a product’s features. The user then has the choice to either verbally accept the ad’s offer, or to respond negatively to skip the ad and return to their content.

Here’s what the arrival of these ads means for audio advertisers, publishers, and listeners:

  1. Voice-enabled ads help overcome audio publishers’ “click challenge”

Whereas other digital advertising media formats include easily-collected metrics such as impressions and clicks-throughs, audio ads (similar to a TV spot) cannot be clicked. As a result, detailed audio ad metrics require surveys or similar costly and time-consuming means, and real-time data is unavailable. However, voice-enabled ads solve this issue by providing sought-after metrics as to how many listeners are served an ad, how many skip the ad, how many successfully engage and convert, etc. This enables audio publishers big and small — from major platforms like Pandora and Spotify to individual podcasters — to offer much clearer and better-defined measurements when it comes to ad effectiveness. At the same time, the ad technology offers publishers a new and intriguing method of monetizing their ad inventory, which advertisers are already showing their eagerness to explore the possibilities around.

2. Advertisers can make AI-driven optimizations that improve engagement.

For advertisers, voice-driven adtech not only introduces empirical engagement metrics that convey the true effectiveness of their campaign, but also enables optimization of ad content based on analysis of user intent. Using deep learning mechanisms, the AI powering voice-driven ads can interpret and even anticipate the intent of a user’s words. Advertisers can then leverage this understanding to iterate and improve ad content and campaign performance: even getting down to the words and phrases that best correlate with success in winning audience conversion. Given this capability, advertisers can pursue much more informed and nuanced strategies when it comes to their audio ad campaigns and ad spend allocations.

Early voice-driven ad performance results also signal a tremendous opportunity for advertisers. Early voice ad campaigns conducted in Q4 of 2018 by Visa, Infiniti, Samsung, HP, Alpha Bank, and Mastercard achieved incredible responses — around 15% engagement rates and 5% interest rates — in an ad marketplace where metrics even half of that would represent a strong success. These finding suggest that listeners who engage in a dialogue with ads experience much deeper engagement with the ad content, versus traditional passive ads.

In general, streaming audio listeners are now more comfortable with interactive voice interfaces than ever, given the familiarity created by the widespread adoption of solutions such as smart speakers and phone-based AI assistants. Listeners are also more likely to engage with audio content within a hands-free and even screen-free experience using their mobile devices, such as when exercising, driving, or simply enjoying the untethered freedom that voice interfaces allow.

3. Listeners gain a more natural (and skippable) ad engagement experience

In these ways, voice-enabled advertising provides a natural listener to experience more appealing and more congruent with how streaming audio is consumed, as opposed to the passive alternative. And, while passive audio ads become something for listeners to wait out and endure when their content isn’t relevant, voice-enabled ads allow for instant listener feedback and ad skipping. This delivers preferable experience while allowing advertisers to more quickly discover what connects with listeners — and what doesn’t.

Given the vast potential of AI-powered voice-enabled advertising, the industry should expect to see a greater prevalence of this emerging ad technology well into the future.

This article was originally published on MarTech Advisors