The number of conversations you have with your smartphone is about to go way up, for better or worse. Nuance, the company whose speech recognition technology helped bring Apple's Siri to life, is now taking its technology to tackle a new frontier: mobile advertisements. The program is called Voice Ads and enables advertisers to embed voice recognition into ads, so smartphone users can respond with speech.
Talking ads that understand your spoken responses could help a company differentiate itself from competitors while learning more about its customers.
That means consumers and advertisers have a new platform for dialogue that could present creative possibilities for engagement, if done correctly. On the other hand, it could be a new avenue for annoyance by interfering with the user experience, just as talking banners and transition ads tend to do.
Here's a short demo of the tech, which sadly only provides one example of a voice ad:
Even though Nuance announced the service on April 1 (April Fool's Day), the company is convinced that advertisers will take it seriously. In a statement, executive VP and general manager Michael Thompson said, "Voice has already changed the mobile interface, making it faster and easier for consumers to discover and access information, and find people and content. Mobile advertising shouldn't be any different."
It's not a secret that companies are eyeing mobile for more ways to communicate with consumers. Over a billion smartphones are now in use worldwide, so mobile advertising potentially can reach around 15 percent of the human population and more in the future. Additionally, spending on mobile ads reached $8.41 billion in 2012 (twice the 2011 spending) and is estimated to skyrocket to $37 billion by 2016, according to eMarketer data presented in the press release.
Considering all the user data advertisers already have access to, it seems that Voice Ads are more about increasing engagement with smartphone users to build up brand image rather than finding out unique information that cannot be obtained through another route.
Innovation in advertising is still alive and well, and online and mobile platforms present much more dynamic media than print or even television could. As companies look for more ways to grab consumer attention even as the amount of competition rises, more avenues to reach customers are being experimented with. The possibility for voice within ads could open new opportunities, such as combining the tech with gamification principles to deliver a new class of ads that don't feel like traditional advertisements at all.
Though the Voice Ad technology could result in some very cool ads, its success will ultimately come down to whether or not the ability for customers to speak to an ad will translate into cash. If Nuance's play with its speech recognition plays off, it could be the start of an entire new wave of interactivity.