Features

Conversational Advertising: Making Brand Engagement a Two-Way Street

Written on
Jan 13, 2014 
Author
Mike McSherry  |

ADOTAS – Meaningful engagement is the goal of advertisers everywhere. The challenge of cutting through the noise of an always-engaged and always-distracted global population can feel, at moments, insurmountable – perhaps even futile. That means being innovative – and in the mobile context, transcending the limitations of the mobile screen – is of the utmost importance.

Enter conversational advertising. Voice-enabled brand engagement entices consumers to have compelling two-way conversations, ensuring a deeper understanding of a brand’s intended message and, ideally, enhanced retention. The conversation drives the experience, which is tailored to meet both the needs of the brand and the consumer through complex collaborations across the mobile ecosystem.

Voice-enabled advertising is an emerging form of mobile marketing and has the potential to be highly successful for the following reasons:

  • Consumers are increasingly comfortable having conversations with devices. Voice-activated virtual assistants, from leading device and application providers, are increasingly popular with consumers. These assistant applications introduced people to the concept of asking a device a question using everyday, conversational language and getting a helpful answer. Conversational advertising leverages that familiarity and extends it to the advertising market, giving brands powerful new opportunities to engage consumers.
  • Voice-enabled advertising leverages one of the most humanized forms of communication: The spoken conversation. Consumers do not have to tap or peck at a virtual keyboard to interact. Instead, they simply begin speaking to establish a dialogue with their chosen brands through an ad – the same way they’d engage with a salesperson in a store or over the phone. It’s as convenient as it is intuitive.
  • In a mobile context, conversational advertising leverages something else that many people already have: a smartphone. More than 20 percent of people worldwide own a smartphone, and the percentages are higher in many individual countries.  In the U.S., for example, smartphone penetration is 61 percent. These figures demonstrate the enormously addressable market that conversational advertising can reach, including younger demographics and individuals whose primary or only Internet device is a smartphone.
  • It’s new and unexpected. Consumers may wonder: ‘I can ask an ad a question and get an answer?’ No consumer expects to truly engage with a brand and be heard, which helps mobile voice ads rise above the noise. Unlike many mobile ad formats, voice-enabled advertisements deliver an experience that is gratifying rather than grating. The surprise and delight also help create a perception that the brand is innovative, tech-savvy and looking for ways to make it fast and easy for consumers to get what they want.
  • In the right situation, conversational advertising can be helpful. Have you ever heard an ad on the radio, wanted more information, but never called the 1-800 number because you didn’t want to get stuck on the phone with a salesperson? A strategic use of a voice-powered advertisement would be to answer the specific question without the additional sales pressure, so consumers feel more comfortable making a purchase and receive incentive for future interactions.

Emerging voice-enabled mobile advertising platforms adhere to an opt-in format, addressing consumer preferences. Consumers are prompted to engage the listening mode on their device, similar to how they would activate location-awareness prompts. Conversational advertising “listens” only when prompted for interaction with a specific advertisement and then stops listening following the completion of the transaction.

While certain platforms do not collect user-identifiable data from transactions, some advertising networks consider user demographic information for the purposes of enhancing the advertising experience.

Broad, Deep Reach

These benefits are among the reasons why conversational advertising will inspire a new era of advertising creativity and give publishers and ad networks opportunities to better monetize the mobile channel. In fact, the new format is in the right place at the right time: Ad monetization is one of the hottest topics in mobile today. With billions of smartphones and tablets in use at nearly every moment of the day, the opportunity is staggering.

Conversational advertisements are scalable. They can be delivered across all smartphone platforms – initially Android and iOS – and their effectiveness does not vary by screen size. That means brands’ messages and engagement strategies can span virtually every demographic, device, network and country.

Brands and agencies can implement mobile voice ads by using a software developer kit (SDK), which adds voice recognition capabilities to their ads for new and existing campaigns. Emerging voice ad platforms provide an extension to Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions 2.0-compliant SDKs, and they support both platform-level application programming interfaces (APIs) and voice interaction APIs.

Conversational advertising uses JavaScript APIs to detect background noise level and platform APIs to detect volume level. Based on these two factors, the ad network’s SDK can decide whether to show a voice ad or a regular rich-media ad.

Creative advertising agencies such as Digitas, OMD, Mobile Theory, 4th Screen Media and Leo Burnett are creating mobile voice ads for their clients, and mobile advertising networks such as Millennial, Ad Marvel and Widespace will provide distribution to more than 100,000 app publishers. In addition, media platform providers such as Celtra are providing design tools for rich media production on smartphones.

Conversational advertising works with the entire advertising ecosystem, uniting creative, design and technology to create an amazing consumer experience that encourages engagement. Mobile voice ads are flexible. They can be incorporated as part of an entirely new campaign for virtually any market or brand, or integrated as part of an existing campaign to drive deeper engagement. They also deliver a media-rich experience that transcends the limitations of the screen: portable, location-aware and intuitive. Mobile advertising is the fastest-growing segment in digital advertising. By voice-enabling their ads, brands can ensure that their messages stand out and better engage their consumers.





Mike McSherry serves as a vice president of advertising for Nuance and joined the company following the acquisition of Swype in 2011. As CEO of Swype, Mike successfully grew the company from startup to one of the most in-demand mobile keyboards for Android.

Prior to Swype, Mike co-founded and ran product/emerging technologies for both Boost and Amp'd Mobile. Previously, Mike also co-founded ZIVO, which grew to be Australia and New Zealand's largest web development company with over 300 employees, and started his tech career with various product management and leadership roles at Microsoft.

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