Immediacy is probably the #1 word to consider in marketing right now. Our age of increasing interconnectedness provides both opportunities and paradoxes for marketers; how does one reach prospective clients when everything is competing for their ever-decreasing attention spans? That’s where voice advertising makes its mark.

It’s no surprise that technology sometimes gets a little impersonal and distant. Especially when it comes to ads, we’re so used to flashing GIFs and pop-ups that we tune them out. This is also a very prevalent thing on YouTube, where we’re counting down the seconds to skip ads.

But the penetration of new technological mediums has made voice advertising an exciting new possibility. Voice-enabled technology and voice assistants have started to enter the market in a big way. With their adoption comes a brand new world of customer engagement that directly engages and captivates. Personalization possibilities are also breaking new ground as creative, fun ways to speak directly to a customer.

This enables a new, customer-facing blend of physical and virtual to create direct relationships. Direct-voice shopping devices are expected to hit the market in a big way by 2022. We’re talking about an increase in household presence by almost 55%. That’s a $40 billion industry in the next two years!

If you want to get informed about why this is the smart way to go, you’re in the right place! Producing or participating in voice advertising looks like it’s going to be the next big thing!

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This post has been updated in August 2021.

Smart speakers for voice advertising

Direct-voice shopping is a $2 billion market today. With the advent of better tech, that number is expected to jump up in a big way. This surge will mostly come from homes utilizing smart speakers.

A smart speaker is what’s known as a “command device”. It includes a virtual assistant for a total “hands-free” experience. Smart speakers can be connected to other devices via Bluetooth or WiFi. That means that they can be your voice-activated virtual command center. They have also recently started to include screens and touchpads. It’s no wonder people are flocking to them in a big way!

Some statistics by the 2019 NPR study on the matter reveal these stunning facts. Among the 53M+ smart speaker owners over the age of 18 in the US:

  • 69% of smart speaker owners use their devices every day. This is even more likely for households with children.
  • Smart speaker owners who have owned the device for 2+ years use an average of seven (7) skills per week. Those who have owned the device for less than 3 months use an average of 12.
  • The new screens have made it easier for 66% of users to access new content. About the same percentage says it has also facilitated their general use of the smart speaker.

Smart speakers also include state-of-the-art virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, or Microsoft’s Cortana. This gives them a whole new layer of connectivity and immediacy.


When voice activation becomes voice shopping

The world of smart speakers has opened a new window into people’s habits. It has also enabled users to shop directly in a much more unobtrusive way than ever before. You can bet that virtual assistant providers have made it almost automatic to access any virtual marketplace. With shopping just a voice command away, consumers have it easy!

“Siri, find me Vans size 10s in purple” is not something out of a sci-fi show anymore. It boggles the mind how many possibilities for voice advertising can be found in this emerging scene. Here are some more facts so you can realize the scope and growth of this market:

  • Tech giants lead the virtual assistant race in the United States. Predictably, it’s Amazon (Echo, 10% penetration); Google Home with 4% and Microsoft’s Cortana with 2%. These numbers, though, are growing.
  • Apple is lagging; Siri just does not hold a candle to Google, whose Homepod has recently landed in the marketplace.
  • Consumers are buying into personalized features, but there is room for improvement. Only 39% trust the “personalized” section of smart speakers.
  • Smart speaker users tend to be those in the 30-45 range. They’re more likely to be affluent and have kids.
  • In this incipient market, voice purchases tend to be standalone, less-expensive items.
  • The three most common categories are groceries, with 20%; entertainment with 19% percent; electronics sits at 17%. Clothing is far behind at 8%.

You can find all of these statistics in this report by OC&C consulting.

So, where does this leave voice advertising?

In a premium spot to engage more consumers, that’s where! With voice-activated devices set to achieve supernova status in the next few years, voice advertising is set to grow in tandem!

With all of this information on customer intent and behavior, things are getting interesting. It means marketers can now aim for one-on-one experiences. In these new environments, voice will reign supreme.

The idea is to create voice ads that are highly contextual and allow for two-way interactions with clients. This is also a much better metric for success than whether someone clicked on an ad or not. Clicking may be a way to gauge interest, but engaging in a dialogue is just more informative for all involved.

How is this achieved?

Yeah, we know. Voice branding and ads are a big thing. But how are companies really planning to leverage voice advertising on these smart platforms?

For one, most smart speaker platforms don’t allow ads yet. Podcast sponsorship is on the table, but no direct marketing yet. What brands can do, though, is to create “Skills”. Skills are seen as organic ways to build customer awareness. They also enable users to engage with brands through interactive ways. For example, Capital One skills allow users to access account balances, information finding, or even jokes!

They’ve gone and recruited comedian and Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon. When a user asks the app for a joke, there’s a whole library of recorded, contextual audio clips. Just like that, the experience bridges the gap between the utilitarian and the human.

The fact that things are becoming increasingly voice-controlled does not yet mean voice advertising is a go, though. Most brands have not taken a shot at it, or considered its implementation beyond the planning stage.

The way forward

Some are enthusiastic but prudent. Harish Goli, from Pandora, believes that we are still some time away from voice advertising being the next big thing. He said “We are hoping that with the voice ads, we can develop richer engagement […] so that brands can not only communicate their message but have a dialog with their customers. I know this is a big promise. We’re not there yet, we’re not even close to that point.”

As of now, most voice advertising is done in the same one-way-street way of yesteryear. That means essentially the same 10-30 clip being played during a radio show or while a song is streaming. That means that most brands are not yet giving a shot to the idea of contextual, two-way voice advertising. It will be interesting to see how many start to become early adopters once smart speakers become more prevalent.


Pioneering interactive voice advertising

Intstreamatic, though, is a startup that won a contract with publisher Gazprom-Media Radio. This Russian radio giant can now publish Instreamatic voice ads on their mobile apps. The first advertiser to try it out was Alfa-Bank.

That’s not all for Instreamatic. The San Francisco-based company is also rolling out ads for other brands. In the fourth quarter of 2018, they tried out interactive ads for Volkswagen, Bank of America, Hewlett-Packard and Samsung. In these ads, the smart speaker’s microphone feature is kept active. The user is then asked a question that can be replied to through the mic, which recognizes a series of set answers. These range from “Tell me more” to “I want to buy this.”

Charles Andrew Whatley, a partner at Instreamatic, was surprised by the incredible engagement numbers.  “What we’ve seen from the campaigns early on was that when we placed ads on platforms where users had never heard one of these ads before in their life, we achieved a 10-15 percent engagement rate, which shocked even us.” He attributed the success of these ads to their dialogue-like nature. After all, engaged customers are much more likely to buy.

Harish Gholi, from Pandora, says that these ads also offer much richer engagement metrics. Beyond the binary of “click or no click”, voice offers rich nuances and interpretations. Things like sentiment and intent can be tallied and measured; new ads can then be customized to fit the user’s experience.

Voice advertising talent

Sure, some may be more skeptical of voice advertising. After all, it goes without saying that we’re used to passive ads. Some may not want to build a personal relationship with Dog Chow.

What is a certainty is that voice advertising is going to be making waves in the near future. Everyone is going to destine part of their marketing budget to ads with a 15% engagement rate. What’s also clear is that you’re probably going to want actual voice talent to reach your audience.

That will mean knowing how to locate voice professionals that match your brand’s message to a tee. Moreover, as you are able to get better metrics, things will get interesting; you’ll want to go with pros that are able to convey a variety of nuances and tones to personalize your messages and replies. This means it’s a whole new ballgame from the traditional “sales-y” voice of audio ads.

Turns out that you’d do pretty well to try out a platform with loads of on-demand vocal talent. When you’re ready to take the plunge, we’ve got just the thing for you. You’ll be able to find a variety of talented professionals that span the whole voiceover spectrum.

A few closing remarks

Voice advertising is offering an exciting spin on traditional audio marketing. It should be very interesting to see whether it opens up the two-way avenues optimists are hopeful for. With AI-based systems, virtual assistants and smart speakers, the systems will be in place for a revolution.

Where are you gonna be when it hits?

Start your own voice ad today at Bunny Studio!