From interactive voice ads to DNA-based marketing: can advertising get any more futuristic?

  • Spotify announces a limited test of voice-enabled ads
  • Pandora plans to start testing interactive voice ads
  • PreShow gives you free movie tickets for watching ads
  • Could DNA-based marketing be the future of the advertising industry?
  • Brave Browser rewards users with cryptocurrency tokens
  • How will digital technology affect the advertising industry?

The job of an advertising professional is anything but easy, with each new generation of consumers presenting its own unique set of challenges. Millennial and Gen Z consumers are no exception in that regard. Traditional advertising techniques such as TV or billboard ads have lost their effectiveness on them, forcing companies to drastically alter their approach and become much more creative with their advertising. In recent years, advertisers have been increasingly turning to technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, facial recognition, blockchain, and voice technology to deliver innovative advertising experiences that will be more attractive and relevant to consumers.

“Brands are continuing to break down the traditional marketing silos and think about customer experience first and foremost,” says Sara Whiteleather, the vice president of media at the US-based AMP Agency. “That applies to traditional vs. digital and paid vs. owned. They’re thinking holistically about how to reach consumers across all the different touchpoints in the full marketing ecosystem.”

Digital advertising has become the dominant force in the marketing arena over the years. Global digital ad spending reached $333 billion in 2019, which accounts for roughly half of the total ad market for the first time. By 2023, it’s predicted to reach $517 billion.

An infographic showing worldwide digital ad spending in 2018, as well as projected spending in 2019 and 2023.

Spotify announces a limited test of voice-enabled ads

Voice technology has become incredibly popular in recent years, as evidenced by the proliferation of smart speakers and other similar gadgets in our homes. According to a recent study published by Juniper Research, the number of digital voice assistants in use is predicted to grow from 2.5 billion in 2018 to 8 billion in 2023. With so many voice-enabled devices out there already, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to use this technology for marketing purposes as well.

An infographic showing the projected increase in the number of digital voice assistants in use between 2018 and 2023.

For instance, the music streaming service Spotify recently announced the launch of voice-enabled advertisements, which will allow listeners to interact with the ad’s content through verbal commands. It will be a limited test that will only be available for free users of the Spotify app in the US who have already turned on voice commands. At first, Spotify will focus exclusively on promoting content within its own service, prompting listeners to check out a new podcast or branded playlist.

One of the ads, for example, will promote a branded playlist related to a Unilever Axe ad campaign, encouraging users to say ‘Play Now’ to check out the content. However, should the user say anything other than the required command, a tone will sound and the mic will be turned off. Of course, users will also be able to opt out of voice ads in the app’s settings or even disable microphone access altogether.

Now that screen fatigue is becoming a growing concern for consumers around the world, many of whom are trying to reduce the amount of time they spend glued to their phones, voice ads will offer marketers a new way to reach their audience. “We believe voice — really across all platforms — are critical areas of growth, particularly for music and audio content,” says Spotify’s co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek. “And we’re investing in it, and we’re testing ways to explore and refine our offering in this arena.” However, it still remains to be seen how people will react to this innovation.

Pandora plans to start testing interactive voice ads

Pandora, another music streaming service, also unveiled plans to start testing interactive voice ads that will enable listeners to learn more about the promoted product or skip the ad if they don’t find it interesting by simply speaking back to the voice-enabled device.

The biggest problem with traditional voice ads, such as those heard on the radio, is that they aren’t interactive, which means it’s nearly impossible for advertisers to measure how effective they are at getting people to make a purchase. Interactive voice ads, on the other hand, will encourage users to engage with the content directly by asking them whether they want to hear more information about a certain product, rather than just playing a message for them.

Developed by a San Francisco-based adtech company called Instreamatic, the voice ads platform will be able to understand much more than simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, thanks to its use of technologies like machine learning and natural language understanding. The platform’s abilities would improve over time as it interacts with more users, allowing it to better understand their intent and engage with them more effectively. Voice technology will enable advertisers to engage customers even during those times when they’re otherwise occupied and unable to respond to ads in traditional ways, such as when they’re driving, running, exercising, or cooking.

“The age of voice has arrived, yet there’s [sic] remained a stark need for meaningful consumer engagement – and measurable metrics – in the audio ad space,” says Stas Tushinskiy, the CEO of Instreamatic. “We believe Instreamatic provides the ideal ad platform to serve this marketplace. We’re excited to be engaged with Pandora to bring this AI-enabled technology to its listeners and advertisers, and prepared to scale these new experiences very quickly once deployed.”

PreShow gives you free movie tickets for watching ads

Described as the “first ad-supported moviegoer network”, PreShow is a new app that rewards its users with free movie tickets for watching branded content on their mobile devices, such as movie trailers, behind the scenes features, or interactive experiences from related companies. Obviously, rewarding people for watching ads isn’t a particularly fresh idea. However, there’s one major element that sets PreShow apart from other similar offerings from the past – it can tell whether you’re watching or not.

To confirm the user’s identity, the app will use Apple ID’s facial recognition software, and to make sure that users are actually watching the videos, the company developed gaze-tracking technology that keeps track of the user’s gaze at all times. As long as the user is looking at the screen, there will be a green border around its edges. However, if they walk away from the screen or turn their gaze away for too long, the border will turn red and the app will automatically pause the video. Once the user is back in front of the screen, the border will become green once again and the video will continue playing from the same spot.

But how does it all work exactly? After downloading the app, users pick a movie they want to see and then have a branded video sent to their phone. Each video is between 15 and 20 minutes long and features 3 or more participating brands. Once they finish watching the video, they’ll receive a certain number of points, which can then be used to redeem a ticket for the movie they selected. At this point, only tickets for 2D films are included, but the company hopes to be able to include 3D and IMAX screenings in the future.

PreShow doesn’t have an official launch date yet, but it recently opened up a Kickstarter campaign, and it will be rolling out various options for backers throughout 2019. It’s also not known whether the app will be free to use or require a monthly subscription. Additionally, there are some privacy concerns associated with the facial recognition and gaze-tracking technology, but the company claims that no personally identifiable information will be stored or shared with third parties.

Could DNA-based marketing be the future of the advertising industry?

With the recent proliferation of companies offering direct-to-consumer genetic testing, it was only a matter of time before someone decided it would be a good idea to use DNA test results to create hyper-personalised product recommendations. And considering the fact that approximately 75 per cent of consumers said they would be willing to provide personal data in exchange for higher personalisation, they might not be opposed to this novel idea.

“Technologies are now in place that will transform the consumer goods industries in the next five to ten years; most notably in health, wellness and beauty products,” says Mark Rosenbaum, the chair of the retailing department at the University of South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management. “We envision consumers increasingly purchasing products, such as vitamins, meals and cosmetics, that are formulated based upon a consumer’s unique DNA sequence.”

The Swiss food giant Nestlé recently launched a personalised nutrition program in Japan called the Nestlé Wellness Ambassador, which offers its users recommendations for food supplements and lifestyle changes using a combination of DNA testing, meal analysis, and artificial intelligence. “Health problems associated with food and nutrition have become a big issue,” says Kozo Takaoka, the head of the company’s business in Japan. “Nestlé must address that on a global basis and make it our mission for the 21st century.”

The program has already attracted around 100,000 users across Japan, who can use the popular Line app to send pictures of the food they eat and receive personalised suggestions for lifestyle changes and specially formulated supplements in return. These supplements come in the form of capsules that contain nutrient-rich teas, smoothies, snacks fortified with vitamins, and other products that can cost up to $600 per year. Users also receive a home kit to provide samples for blood and DNA, which are then analysed by outside companies to determine whether they’re susceptible to common ailments like high cholesterol or diabetes.

Brave Browser rewards users with cryptocurrency tokens

Blockchain technology has already transformed a number of industries, and it could soon do the same for the advertising industry as well. Typically, to display ads on a website, ad networks have to pay the site for ad space. However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get people to actually view those ads, as many web browsers now allow users to install extensions that block all ads. The Brave Browser is one such browser, and the company behind it has a plan to transform how online advertising works by placing the browser at the centre of the experience.

The company recently announced that it will start paying users with cryptocurrency tokens for watching ads while surfing the web. Rather than replacing the ads that already appear on the websites, these ads will appear in the form of desktop notifications that users will have to click on to view the content. Of course, the program will be entirely opt-in, and the ads will appear only to those users who decide to enable Brave Rewards. Users will also receive 70 per cent of the advertising revenue in the form of Basic Attention Tokens or BAT, with the remaining 30 per cent going to Brave.

At the end of each month, users will be able to claim these tokens and donate them to their favourite websites or content creators. In the future, the company plans to expand the functionality of the tokens to allow users to exchange them for real-world rewards such as hotel stays, restaurant vouchers, or gift cards. There are also plans to partner with cryptocurrency exchanges to allow users to convert BAT into fiat currency. And since ad matching is handled directly on the user’s device, no private data is ever sent to the cloud or shared with third parties, allowing users to protect their privacy at all times.

“With Brave Ads, we are launching a digital ad platform that is the first to protect users’ data rights and to reward them for their attention,” says Brendan Eich, the CEO and co-founder of Brave Software. “Brave Ads also aim to improve the economics and conversion of the online advertising industry, so that publishers and advertisers can thrive without the intermediaries that collect huge fees and that contribute to web-wide surveillance. Privacy by design and no tracking are integral to our mission to fix the Web and its funding model.”

How will digital technology affect the advertising industry?

With the emergence of a new generation of consumers, who have proven generally immune to traditional advertising methods, companies have been forced to exercise their creative muscles to reach a wider audience and get their message across. To achieve that goal and produce content that will resonate more with today’s consumers, advertisers are increasingly turning to technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, facial recognition, blockchain, and voice technology. Whether it’s using voice technology to encourage user engagement, employing DNA testing to deliver more personalised product recommendations, or implementing gaze-tracking to make sure that users are actually watching ads, technology is set to play a major role in shaping the future of the advertising industry, forever changing the way brands interact with consumers.

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