How to capitalise on interactive voice advertising: A guide

David Ciccarelli is the founder and CEO of Voices.com, the largest marketplace for audio and voice-over products and services in the world with over one million business and voice actor registered users. David is responsible for setting the vision, executing the growth strategy, creating a vibrant culture, and managing the company on a day-to-day basis. He is frequently published in outlets such as The Globe and Mail, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal.

Until fairly recently, advertising has been limited to one-way communications. Advertisers attempt to make lasting impressions on mostly passive audiences in short periods via billboards, broadcast, print, and other mediums. Sometimes their efforts pay off, but it’s hard to track engagement.

That’s because all brands continuously bombard people with static, one-dimensional ads. Consumers grew adept at tuning out dry or repetitive radio, TV, and internet ads — a psychological phenomenon on the web known as “banner blindness.” The rise of interactive ads offers an alternative to one-sided ads, one that can be used to supplement an already robust advertising strategy.

Interactive ads have the potential to transform traditional marketing campaigns into dynamic experiences that leave lasting impacts on consumers, and the results can be equally transformative for advertisers. According to a recent study from MAGNA Global, interactive video ads can generate a 47% increase in engagement time over static ads, ultimately increasing the likelihood that consumers make a purchase.

Why are they so effective? Because in the modern world of shortened attention spans and virtually unlimited access to information and entertainment, interactive ads cut through the noise and force consumers to participate in a branded experience that they help create. Consumers can selectively engage with the elements of the ad that appeal to them and ignore the rest. In short, consumers opt in to an interactive experience.

Interactivity can be built into ads in a number of ways. Because the world of commerce is increasingly digital, many engagement opportunities involve seeing and clicking, but new ones appear every day. Right now, brands are looking to stimulate an often-overlooked sense: hearing.

Intelligent, collaborative advertising

Interactive voice ads represent the natural evolution of consumer-brand engagement. According to research compiled by HubSpot, 27% of consumers are already using voice-activated search on their mobile devices and nearly 53 million American adults have a voice-activated smart device in their homes.

Interactive voice ads take advantage of the technology people already use to create opportunities for consumers to both hear from and engage with brands. Unlike, say, chatbots, which offer flat, text-based interactivity, voice-enabled ads rely on speech recognition, natural language processing, and deep learning technologies to offer a richer, more convenient experience. As consumers continue to engage with these ads, the algorithms powering them become more sophisticated, allowing the ads themselves to become more effective.

A recent campaign from Mazda illustrates the potential of interactive voice ads. The carmaker partnered with Instreamatic to promote its new CX-5 model by creating opportunities for real dialogue between the brand and consumers. The ads were delivered via podcasts, music streaming services, and online radio apps, and interested listeners could use their voices to navigate to Mazda’s seasonal promotion webpage. Alternatively, listeners who expressed disinterest were asked whether they wanted to see photos of the CX-5, and more than 3% of those listeners eventually expressed interest.

Currently, platforms such as Pandora, Spotify, Gaana, and AirKast are airing interactive voice ads, and brands can find an increasing number of mediums to use during the creation process. This includes Instreamatic, the company that seems to be leading the charge on voice ads in the U.S. Although exact costs depend on the medium, brands can buy interactive voice ads as part of a larger package for about $250,000.

This might seem like a hefty price tag, but businesses generally have options when it comes to paying for voice advertising. Most payment models depend on the ad’s performance, like cost per acquisition (when leads turn into customers), cost per lead (when users turn into leads), cost per click (when users take action), and cost per impressions (when 1,000 users see the ad). Smaller brands can also decrease the cost of production by creating voice ads in-house or employing affordable freelance services.

Less friction, faster results

Prior to the emergence of voice interactivity, radio ads and television ads weren’t “clickable.” Advertisers had to conduct surveys and focus groups to determine whether these advertisements were actually furthering brand engagement. A call to action at the end of a commercial might lead to an interested party scrambling to jot down a phone number or web address to visit later. However, that information could easily be lost or forgotten. In a desperate attempt to avoid losing their connection with consumers, advertisers have resorted to repeating their contact information multiple times at the end of an ad. It’s annoying for consumers, and it cuts into the time brands have to relay their messages.

The very nature of this type of ad experience is at odds with how consumers take action; it adds another point of friction between the call to action and the action itself. After hearing a message, consumers have to switch to a different channel or device to act on it. Or, worse, they have to record information they need to act on later.

Voice-enabled ads streamline engagement. With interactive voice ads, brands can collect useful data on consumer preferences, which lets them know right away whether their messages are resonating. Advertisers can determine how well certain ads are received and also which aspects were the most and least engaging. From the moment a user interacts with an ad, brands can begin accumulating data that will inform future campaigns.

For consumers, interactive voice ads allow for a brand experience that’s more convenient and responsive. They can act on brand messages immediately while they’re still engaged and positioned to follow through. Moreover, even if consumers aren’t ready to make a purchase, interactive ads give them the opportunity to take a number of other actions simply by using their voice.

Creating interactive voice ads

While the technology powering interactive voice ads is still relatively new, forward-thinking brands in nearly every industry are already racing to adopt it. In particular, voice-enabled shopping continues to surge in popularity. So how can you capitalize on and create your own interactive voice ads? Here are the three phases of the process:

Discovery

In addition to determining your budget, your creative and media teams must figure out how long your ad will be, where it will run, and what audience it will target. It’s likely that not all of your existing or prospective customers will be able to engage with the ad, so segment audiences by demographic, psychographic, and behavioral traits to narrow your focus. As you perform market research, pay careful consideration to the way target audiences communicate, including the language they use and the channels they prefer.

Production

Unlike a traditional broadcast advertisement, a single interactive ad will require multiple scripts, each corresponding with one of several potential outcomes. At the very least, you’ll need an intro script, two scripts for scenarios in which listeners indicate they’re interested or uninterested, and a script in case listeners’ responses are unintelligible or absent. Once you develop these, you’ll need to source a voice actor to bring your ad to life. This person’s voice will serve as the voice of your brand, so hire a professional capable of conveying the personality and energy that you want audiences to associate with your company and products.

Implementation

When inputting ad data into your advertising platform, you’ll need to include the name of your campaign, the dates that it will begin and end, your target demographics, and the number of interested responses you can accommodate per day. Your distributor will target the platforms, apps, and devices that match your specific audience and will take your campaign live when you’re ready to launch. As you gather data on customer engagement, you should be thinking about what metrics are directly associated with your desired outcomes. Your first interactive voice advertising campaign will generate a goldmine of information. Analyze it carefully to optimize future campaigns.

Interactive voice advertising is more than a passing fad. It’s an absolute game changer for both advertisers and consumers, and it will permanently and beneficially change the way the two interact. These dynamic ads will give consumers more choices when it comes to how they engage with brands, and they will give brands more insight into what drives consumer decisions. As the technology behind interactive ads becomes more sophisticated, their creative potential will expand as well.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

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