Voice is an interface. It is a UI. In fact, you could consider voice to eventually become something like an operating system in that it gives you a means to access the tools that are important to you, but it is not a tool in and of itself.
It’s also much larger than that. Voice is a way to interact or engage with technology and consumers. It is not a media format to directly monetize. You don’t see ads embedded in Windows or the Apple operating systems, so why would you expect to hear ads embedded in a voice UI?
That being said, people think voice is monetizable. I saw an article from Strategy+Business that forecast global advertising on voice devices will reach $19 billion by 2022. That is a staggering number, potentially larger than the amount spent on the current magazine business.
When you think about the devices as a channel, it makes sense to me. Alexa, Google Home and even Siri can be viewed as a channel and not just a UI, so it does make sense that you could hear audio ads embedded in some of these channels — but it remains to be heard how the monetization of the channel will be balanced with the intrusive nature of essentially “butting in” to a conversation between owner and machine. I’m not yet sold that simple audio ads — maybe five to 10 seconds — embedded in these platforms is a very good idea.
This brings us back to vanity URLs and other methods that we use for offline tracking. If you focus on search as a means of advertising and reaching your customers, then you have to be considering voice search as a primary vehicle in the coming year.
The other avenue is for brands and publishers to work on custom skill development for voice platforms. Custom skills create engagement between your brand and your consumers, and these can be activated with packaging or advertising. Think of packaging that references a skill you can ask Alexa for and encourages your consumers to engage through that platform. Imagine if Pringles put an “Enter our contest through Alexa” message on their cans, say. These can be done for free, or you can work with the channel to create more robust means of interaction.
Voice and voice activation does represent one of the most important developments in the last 20 years. It is potentially as important as the development of the web itself because it makes accessing the underlying technology even easier for everyone to do.
Publishers and brands are clamoring for ways to leverage voice because it simplifies the playing field. For thousands of years we’ve been talking to one another and sharing stories. Now we can do it with technology, which is inevitably a boon for all our respective businesses.