Nope, you can neither run away from monetization nor advertisement. And that’s the situation Amazon’s Alexa is currently finding itself in, courtesy of an analytics firm called VoiceLabs.
As the popularity of smart speakers is steadily growing, advertisers are gearing up to figure out ideas to jump ship on this revolution and monetize their content. The analytics venture has today announced the launch of a first-of-its-kind advertising platform called Sponsored Messages.
After creating a new audio format and running extensive consumer tests, VoiceLabs believes this will be the first ad format that consumers will understand and accept on voice assistant platforms.
This platform enables Alexa skill developers to integrate 6 to 15 seconds long adverts at the start and end of conversations. They are being placed at these locations to naturally lead a consumer into the conversation or experience being offered to them. This is being made due to Voice Labs’ new audio format and advanced insertion capabilities.
You Amazon Echo speaker will be home to some of the top-tier brands, like ESPN or Wendy’s. The developers will be able to partner with them to serve you adverts, such as ‘Thanks for listening, and thanks to ESPN for supporting us’ at the end of the news hour. The messages won’t remain the same and will adapt according to the needs of the owner. It may remind you of a NFL game and then ask you if you’d like to set a reminder — probably surface a link for the partner’s channel in the process.
Voice Labs believes that their technology and ideology are both first-of-its-kind and some brands are already on board to explore the voice-first advertising opportunities. Talking about the same, VoiceLabs’ Chief Product Officer Alex Linares says,
We are fortunate to have advertising partners who “get it.” For example, we collaborated with Progressive and Wendy’s to create Sponsored Messages that are both short, and also tell a brand story over the course of multiple user sessions.
In addition, the ‘Sponsored Messages’ platform is also attracting attention from the developer community. Amazon Alexa may have achieved the 10,000 skills milestone earlier last year but most of the skills haven’t been monetized till date. The developers provided free support for their skills as they grew in popularity among users. But, Voice Labs is now providing them a chance to support their Alexa skills through brand monetization.
Speaking on the same, Nick Schwab, one of the top ten Alexa and Cortana skill developers, said,
I have been working hard developing Alexa Skills for over a year, and I can finally support my efforts. Building on Amazon Alexa has been a labor of love, but essentially grew into a part-time job as my Skills became popular. If Sponsored Messages didn’t come along soon I would have had to shift my development efforts to another platform or even consider shutting down my Skills entirely.
Further, the official blog post also goes on to mention that the Sponsored Messages is opt-in for the developers. The ads can be tuned in real-time, depending on the apps voice data and consumer behavior.
But, the platform will have its limitations as Amazon exercises immense control on its AI voice assistant — Alexa. Its guidelines state that adverts can only be placed in music/radio streaming or flash briefing skills, along with a barrier on conversations with it. Thus, the scope of Voice Labs’ platform could be restricted even though it is surely an upgrade over being handed out nothing. If this works out, maybe Amazon will acquire it and integrate it into the platform itself.