Traditional ads are interruptions. Voice-activated advertising is an invitation.
Interactive voice ads are a form of audio brand engagement for digital voice channels, from smart speakers to mobile streaming services to in-car infotainment systems. These ads speak directly to listeners and invite them to respond with a word. Voice ads pose an offer—helpful information, promo codes, exclusive content—and allow the user to accept or decline.
Because these ads ask listeners if they want to hear more, they’re less intrusive than your average banner ad. They’re more effective, too. The average click-through rate for digital ads tends to hover between 1 and 3%. With interactive voice ads, the corresponding metric—the say-through rate—can average 7–10% or more. Instreamatic, one of the leading agencies in the voice ad space, says its campaigns hit an average engagement rate of 12%, with some ads soaring to nearly 20%.
Maybe that explains why brands are flocking to interactive voice advertising, with estimates projecting a U.S. voice-ad market value of nearly $20 billion by 2022. Keep reading to learn how voice-activated advertising is producing new engagement opportunities—and how your brand can get involved.
Interested in developing an interactive voice experience, but not sure where to start? Here’s a point-by-point checklist to guide you through the process—our treat.
The Surprising History of Voice-Activated Advertising
Interactive voice advertising has its roots in the touch-tone phone surveys of yesteryear. While a push-button “conversation” with an interactive voice response (IVR) system may not seem like a voice-first interaction, it does supply some of the DNA that voice ads carry to this day: It invites the listener to participate and prompts them for an interaction.
Today’s voice ads double down on this interactivity, responding specifically to the user’s choices. The modern interactive voice ad arose in 2013, with JetBlue’s voice-activated mobile campaign. It invited consumers to play a simple, voice-enabled video game. Later that year, Toys R Us unveiled its own mobile voice ad, which guided users to holiday gifts based on their spoken responses to a string of questions.
The development of voice advertising took place mostly behind the scenes for the next few years, but by 2019, streaming service Pandora was testing hands-free, voice-activated ads for major brands including Unilever, Wendy’s, and Doritos. What do these ads sound like? Here are just a few examples:
- Hellmann’s Mayonnaise asks listeners if they want a tip that’ll take their grilled cheese sandwiches from “cheesy to yes-pleasey.” If they say yes, the ad will provide the recipe.
- DiGiorno’s tells a “pizza joke,” delivering the set up and only providing the punchline with an affirmative response.
- Comcast Xfinity asks if users want to know about a new voice-activated device, and when listeners agree, they launch into the full ad about the Xfinity Voice Remote.
This second generation of voice ads usually let the engagement drop when users declined to participate. Today, voice agencies are developing voice ads that follow useful progressions no matter how the listener initially responds.
A “yes” leads to the preferred conversational path, while a “no” can end in a reminder to check out the brand at a later date—and start a personalized conversation that resumes with the next voice ad. Instreamatic says that, for one of its campaigns, more than 5% of listeners who declined to pursue a first conversation accepted a second ad’s offer. That’s pretty good for an initial “no thanks.”
The Future of Interactive Voice Ads
Increased interactivity and hyperpersonalization are only two of the trends driving the future of voice advertising. So far, interactive voice ads are rolling out primarily on audio streaming services like Pandora and Spotify. But they’re also arriving on smart speakers and smart TVs, a practice that will only increase.
NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock, started running voice-activated ads in August of 2020 (NBC calls them on command ads, but they’re the same thing as voice-activated ads, or, increasingly, just voice ads.) Other video streaming services and even smart TV providers themselves will probably follow suit.
Meanwhile, voice-activated advertising will make the leap from business-to-consumer (B2C) outreach to business-to-business (B2B) marketing. As more and more web pages become voice-enabled, B2B marketers will need ways to transfer their on-page ads and calls to action into an audio format. If you listen to a blog from a company website, a voice-activated ad at the end can replace a high-value link or contact form.
How to Build An Interactive Voice Experience For Your Brand
Whether your audience consists of businesses or consumers, the key to meaningful brand engagement is a direct, interactive connection—precisely what voice-activated advertising provides.
Thinking about creating a voice ad or something similar of your own? Start with three things: a great team, the right plan, and advanced voice technology. We’ve created a free checklist that outlines everything you need to join the Internet of Voice with your own interactive brand experience. Learn about:
- The employees and partners you need on your voice team
- Eight steps that lead to an effective development plan
- All the technology you’ll need to deploy your creation
This free guide demystifies the process so you can start working on a brand-enhancing voice experience today.