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Jellyfish Google The Drum Search Awards

Voice ads: opportunities for brands and agencies


By Dani Gibson, Senior Writer

January 26, 2018 | 10 min read

Amazon has ventured in industries unimaginable from automated stores to underwater warehouses and drones that charge cars. So it’s no surprise it is in talks with various consumer companies to promote products on Alexa, according to a CNBC report. This will bring about the end of the voice assistant service’s ad-free reign.

The Drum spoke to industry experts from Jellyfish, LEGO Group and Zoopla to learn how they see this affecting the search trade.

How might an agency/brand approach a move to voice ads?

When you have a great relationship with Amazon and Google, this can only help matters, which is the case for Jellyfish who says it is well placed to help clients make the most of any opportunities on Echo and Google Home. Managing director EMEA, Edward Ball, says that while receiving search results through these devices is new, voice search itself isn't. He explains: “We're already seeing more people use voice search through their mobile devices and how this is impacting search queries and the search engine results pages.”

A challenge that Amazon is facing in this space, is marketers asking whether they are adding value for the customer by running media activity on Alexa, says Luis Navarrete Gómez, head of global search marketing at LEGO Group. He believes that marketers need to think about how they can implement ads without disrupting the user experience. Even then, given the nature of voice search, it's going to be very difficult to understand.

As a leading brand in the property search, Zoopla sees this as an opportunity to see what type of searches people would make, like “how much is my house worth”.


Agencies need to make sure they are taking advantage of voice results through Amazon Echo and Google Home, says Jellyfish. According to Ball, this will be important, but it won’t be as disruptive as how the mobile phone has been or blockchain marketing will be. The main factors to consider is how the results are delivered back and the mechanisms used to determine what the results will be.

Moving in the same direction as Google, and even Apple, Amazon faces the same challenges when it comes to monetising. “I’m confident that they will find ways of implementing ads on voice search devices,” says Gómez. “But it will most likely be a different type of format, that will not be as clear, or the same way as we know them in the search marketing industry now.”

According to Zoopla’s head of digital marketing, Vincent Coyle, brands are slowly warming up to the opportunities of voice search. He says: “Most websites don’t have the appropriate meta data to be included in voice search database. Ads in voice search will take a while to make it onto most media plans as it’s a completely new format.”

How should companies approach this ad format?

Only a small percentage of the mass market has an Alexa, Echo, Google Home or similar devices. However, most aren't always at home, but the majority have a mobile phone on them. Ball says that voice results through the mobile phone will be interesting. “I think Google has the obvious advantage because of the Android Platform, the Pixel phone and Google Assistant” he explains.

Good marketing is based on knowing where your audience is. If you can create ads in a different format that is ultimately improving people's lives, making the shopping experience easier, or finding your content much more engaging, that will be a winner according to Gómez. Zoopla suggests that the tone of voice of the ad used will be integral. It will also be important to test if consumers will interpret ads in voice search as intrusive. There needs to be a balance between ad revenue, consumer value and context.

Providing a strong voice strategy/connection with consumers

As with all new products, testing is essential. But as a relatively different format to the norm, voice ads may need some innovative thinking. Ball believes that some of the concepts and best practices from radio advertising could really influence how brands and agencies approach voice advertising. Whereas Gómez says that the industries own risk, comes of having the same kinds of facts that it had when mobile ads became mainstream. Mobile ads were developed straight away because they could. But for voice, search should think before it jumps into it.

Lego is investigating this and are trying to understand what questions its audience might ask devices like Alexa and Google Home. Gómez explains: “The industry needs to become a little bit more mature. Still, Google and Amazon don't ask for any information about how people use these devices, what kind of searches that they do on these devices or how the behaviour is different from a mobile device to a smart speaker. If we have more information in that area, it will be much easier to start outlining how to structure the ads to create a better user experience on those platforms.”

Ball, Navarrete Gómez and Coyle are all judges for The Drum Search Awards. The entry deadline is Friday 2 February, so make sure you download your entry pack and be in with a chance to showcase the projects/campaigns you have been working on a global platform and get the acknowledgement you deserve.

Jellyfish Google The Drum Search Awards

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