By Owen Ray
Marketers continue to await the arrival of paid search ads to voice assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa with bated breath. Salivating like a dog being taunted with a treat held just out of its reach, we wonder what voice ads will sound like, how well they will work, and what acronym we will use for them. I say PVAs, for paid voice ads. Okay, maybe I need to work on that a little. As hotly anticipated voice search ads are in the marketing set, consumers—a.k.a., you when you get home—await its arrival with equal measures of dread.
Voice search responses are blissfully ad-free today. It’s virtually the only medium you can use to look for something and not see or hear an ad while you do it. Even if you opened a phone book for a non-kindling related reason, you’d see ads. So why hasn’t this panacea been opened to advertisers? Despite over 1 billion voice-enabled devices having been sold (that includes phones), Google, Amazon, and Apple are still trying to establish trust with users and achieve the greatest market penetration possible before they attempt to monetize voice search. Being Google, Amazon, and Apple, they also don’t exactly need the revenue from voice search, especially at the risk of losing market share and alienating customers.
Consumers Aren’t Ready for Voice Search Ads
So, will people hate hearing ads on Alexa? It looks like that might be the case. A recent survey shows that 62% of consumers would reject voice search ads. That’s not a great sign. On the other hand, just under 40% said they would be open to ads from their voice-commanded helpers if they were “relevant.” There are a few problems with this data, however. First, this survey did not delineate results between devices. People might hate a voice ad on the Echo, but not mind it so much on a mobile device. Second, it all depends on individual interpretations of relevance.
On the first point, yes, getting an ad instead of an organic search result on a screenless smart assistant would achieve a new level of annoying, and poorly targeted ads could dump over the holy grail of relevance. On the other hand, the “organic” results you get now are often the result of marketers fine-tuning content to return the top (and only) result for a screen-free search query. Is that really any different than an ad? To you or me, not really. But to a consumer who would likely be told “you’re about to hear an ad,” it’s probably enough to make them say “Hey Google, have fun at the bottom of the pool.”
What Paid Search Results from Voice Search Could Sound (or look) Like
Of course, the same survey shows that 63% of people who use voice search are actually using their phones to do it, which do in fact have screens. It has been reported that people have seen Google testing voice search ads in the wild on Android devices.
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