- Unilever this month will test ads on audio streaming service Spotify that respond to verbal commands from listeners, Ad Age reported. By saying "Play now" when prompted by an audio commercial from personal care brand Axe, users can access a curated music playlist that includes ads.
- Voice-powered ads only work for Spotify users who allow the app to access the microphone of a wireless device. They can change their app settings to disable the feature at any time. Spotify has limited the test to a group of U.S.-based listeners of its free, ad-supported service, according to Variety.
- Spotify sees voice-powered controls on mobile devices and smart speakers as a key part of getting its service on more platforms. "We believe voice — really across all platforms — are critical areas of growth, particularly for music and audio content," Daniel Ek, Spotify co-founder and CEO, said this week in its earnings call with analysts.
Voice-powered ads like the ones Unilever plans to test on Spotify could help advertisers reach audiences who are most amenable to having their listening experience interrupted by a commercial. Self-selecting audiences may help to boost the efficiency of ad placements instead of wasting ad spend on listeners who aren't likely buyers of an advertised produce or service. At the very least, voice-powered ads give audiences greater control of their listening experience and may deepen their attachment to Spotify.
Spotify's test comes after rival Pandora announced plans to test voice-powered ads that will let marketers try to engage listeners in conversational commerce. Voice-enabled ads let listeners verbally respond to a sponsor's call to action, such as asking for more information about an advertised product, placing a direct order or skipping past the ad. Voice commerce is predicted to grow to more than $80 billion a year by 2023, mostly on the strength of money transfers and digital media like on-demand movies, music and TV shows — not physical goods — Juniper Research predicted.
Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and natural-language procession (NLP) that power virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are tempting more brands to test out voice-powered interactivity. Amazon created Alexa to help consumers place e-commerce orders, and the platform has evolved to support 90,000 voice-powered apps. Walmart this year partnered with Google to let shoppers use verbal commands to place orders on Google Assistant. Last year, Target also teamed up with Google on a voice-activated coupon that let shoppers activate the discount with a voice command to a smart speaker or smartphone.