Conversational advertising is all just talk – isn’t it?

Digital, mobile, out-of-home (OOH) and digital out-of-home (DOOH), print, radio, TV, addressable TV…  Brands have no shortage of advertising channels on which to reach their desired audience at the right time and place and on the most relevant device.

Despite that, conversational advertising, driven by the adoption of smart speakers and voice assistants (Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, etc, etc), is not being deterred from jostling for its place at the marketing table.  But do we really need another advertising channel in a mix that can already seem overwhelming to many marketers, faced with limited resources and finite budgets?

The figures speak for themselves.

Voice assistants are expected to deliver $164 billion in voice transactions by 2025, with 70% of users asking their voice assistant for information about brands; ownership of smart speakers among those aged 65-75 doubled in the year to May 2020, growing from 11% to 21%.

Trusted assistants

Their personal nature also means voice assistants are seen to deliver credible information; during the first lockdown, 18-34 year olds in the US used smart speakers to get trusted information 50% more than they had pre-pandemic.

Why is trust so important?

“Trust is the ultimate human currency – it’s earned in drops and you can lose it in buckets if you don’t make it a priority.” – SAP CEO Bill McDermott.

One of the frames by which we think about voice assistants is as a communication channel deeply woven into the fabric of millions of everyday lives. If a brand is not present on this channel it is not building trust there and this is important because of the power of voice.

Why is voice so powerful?  

Much traditional advertising has been about broadcasting a message one to many.  TV, radio, display and OOH are all set up to do this.  Things changed with the digital era which enabled vastly improved targeting, allowing specific messages to be delivered to increasingly discreet groups; however, these messages were still delivered in a broadcast fashion.  Voice is different, voice is permissive, voice listens, voice engages.

Message recall

We remember conversations in a different way to other forms of advertising.  This is important to consider when thinking about recall and action and getting a conversation moving before the message is forgotten; Brian Romelle’s insight here is very helpful:

“Short term memory is reasoned to last about 18 seconds (Miller’s Law) without a form of memory rehearsal (repeating the idea or phrase) it suggests that its contents spontaneously decay over time. The decay assumption is part of many theories of short term memory, the most notable one being Baddeley’s model of working memory.”

In order to overcome the limitation of short term memory, and retain information for longer, information must be periodically repeated or rehearsed – which is what happens in a conversation.  This is why it is easier to remember what you said in a meeting over what you said on Slack / WhatsApp.

“Memory for the content of our conversations reflects two partially conflicting demands. First, to be an effective participant in a conversation, we use our memory to follow its trajectory, to keep track of unresolved details, and to model the intentions and knowledge states of our partners. Second, to effectively remember a conversation, we need to recall the gist of what was said, by whom, and in what context.”  This all leads to voice delivering new levels of message retention and recall.

Starting the (advertising) conversation

It’s already begun.  2020 saw voice campaigns from a wide variety of brands such as Nike, Audi, Stella Artois, Target, Coors NARS and many charities.  Those brands are currently doubling down on their learning and stepping up their plans for voice commerce, a form of e-commerce that has seen huge advances through ongoing global lockdowns, as the usage of voice assistants has become firmly embedded within the home and family unit.  Planning for the long-run gives a far better chance of success and brands can course-correct over time rather than having to deliver results within a quarter.

Closing thought

In 2012 39% of the UK population owned a smartphone; this is about where smart speaker ownership is now.  Technology adoption is increasing in pace and we expect voice to reach today’s level of mobile maturity by 2025.  There is no time to waste – brands and advertisers that want to get ahead in (conversational) advertising need to start their voice technology journey now.

About Say It Now: Say It Now, UK & EU winners of ‘The Alexa Cup’ are passionate about conversational technology, with over 20 years experience in delivering enterprise solutions our goal is simple, to drive voice assistant usage, making peoples lives easier.

About the author, Charlie Cadbury: Charlie has been working in emerging technologies for the past 20 years, setting up his first software business in 2006. He started working with Conversational AI in 2015 looking at how to book an airline ticket using Alexa. He co-founded the multi award winning conversational platform (now Hello Done) in 2016 which launched with Marriott Hotels initially as an in room, voice powered, concierge. Charles is now CEO of Say It Now, an award winning Voice Commerce business working with charities and enterprises to enable transactions using voice assistants. He lives in West London with his wife and 3 young children.