Amazon Echo, housing the Alexa intelligent agent
Voice analytics company VoiceLabs introduced audio ads for Alexa to help developers make money off their “skills.” The company promises these sponsored messages are “native voice” audio ads, specifically optimized for Alexa and potentially other voice assistants.
CEO Adam Marchick told me that the company had extensively tested the new, interactive format and saw an extremely high degree of acceptance. “Out of more than a million impressions we had less than five negative responses,” he said. Those negative responses were in the form of critical reviews that mentioned the ads. That’s less than a fraction of 1 percent.
He also told me that there was “no retention degradation” from exposure to the ads. Consumers came back at same rates as those who were unexposed.
Marchick said that the sponsored messages are designed to be multi-part stories that play over time in 6 or 15 second installments. An Alexa user could hear part one at 7am and then part two at 3pm; part three could come later that evening or the next day.
The stories are configurable by the the developer. “You can adjust the wait times,” added Marchick. “They have personality and variation; they’re not the standard boring message.”
Currently there are only three categories of apps where ads can run according to Amazon’s terms: streaming radio, streaming music and news-flash briefings. Marchick explained that of roughly 13,000 skills only about 3,000 are ad-eligible. He added that lack of a monetization option was a potentially major issue for Alexa developers and carried the risk of platform abandonment.
There are three inaugural advertisers in VoiceLabs program: Progressive Insurance, Wendy’s and ESPN. However, Marchick told me they were seeing “a lot of advertiser demand from CPG companies, to prompt people to ad products to their shopping carts.” As the graphic above indicates, the ads are capable of generating e-commerce sales through Amazon.
The addition of a screen to the forthcoming Echo Show, as well as limited calling capabilities across the Alexa network, create interesting new advertising and commerce possibilities for the future. For the time being, however, VoiceLabs is offering the only “headless” assistant advertising opportunity.
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