Voice End Point Targeting

Since the early days of voice assistants, the industry has been waiting to see how companies like Amazon and Google would monetize their breakout devices through advertising. To-date, both firms have stood pat that they would not dilute the user experience at the cost of advertiser revenue. Due to this stance, there has been a continually evolving ecosystem being built around these devices focused on activating voice advertising. This week we saw Pandora take a big step in this direction by launching a smart speaker targeting offering. The new feature, while not a revolutionary step, is a start toward marketers being able to reach these users outside of owned brand experience environments. (It also looks as if Google may be testing some subtle advertising opportunities of their own.) As voice technology continues to proliferate and move beyond the home (see Amazon’s auto optimization news below), it will become an even more sought-after channel for marketers to reach their consumers.

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Ad Buy Bullseye

Audio-streaming service and media company Pandora has begun selling ads specifically targeted at voice technology users. Previously the service was able to broadly target users of ‘connected home’ devices (an audience they say is composed of 14 million monthly users), but this new offering allows buyers to specifically send messages to users on smart speaker devices. While the ads essentially function like normal audio spots, they do open up an important new vehicle for marketers advertising voice-specific experiences to smart speaker users. The marketers can now include device-specific CTAs such as “ask Alexa” or “OK, Google” and be assured they are reaching users of those devices. While these ads can’t open a branded voice experience directly or allow in-ad shopping yet, Pandora has implied those are appealing areas to explore going forward. More on WSJ

Drive Time Context

Amazon has rolled out the ability to optimize skills for Alexa auto vehicles and devices. While skills will continue to work on any Alexa device, there is now new functionality that developers can take advantage of to ensure their experiences are better suited for use on-the-go. With these new customization capabilities, Alexa can now determine what type of device the user has and take advantage of location-aware responses. In addition to the new optimization capabilities, Amazon has published a “Best Practices for Designing Alexa Skills for Automotive” guide encouraging developers to design voice-first experiences, limit the need for users to reference their companion app, provide longer times for users to reply and more. More on Mashable

Siri’s Laser Focus

On the heels of their Pullstring deal, Apple has made another acquisition— this time it’s Laserlike, a machine learning startup focused on personalization capabilities. Specifically, the software can take information from the web or a user search and deliver results informed by user activity or browsing history. Reportedly the Laserlike team will be working in Apple’s Siri group suggesting that the company’s expertise will be used to help bolster Siri’s search functionality and improve the relevance of results. More on VentureBeat

Stats Don’t Lie

37% Percent of smart speaker users who will shop using their device this year (data from eMarketer)

76% Smart speaker users performing local searches at least weekly (data from Brightlocal)

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