Say It Now has acquired North American voice tech startup, GetStarted, in an effort to finally bring voice-first success to brands.
Actionable Audio Ads
Say It Now has been trialling what it calls ‘Actionable Audio Ads’ in partnership with DAX (Digital Advertising Exchange) and Global Radio. The trial came from a successful Innovate UK bid, which aimed to help charities bounce back after the pandemic, during which donations plummeted.
Since then, a campaign with Mediacom and Bayer saw the industry’s first FMCG Actionable Audio Ad, which allowed users to order Berocca straight from their smart speaker after listening to the ad.
How Actionable Audio Ads work
Fundamentally, Actionable Audio Ads are advertisements played on smart speakers with a call to action to open an Alexa skill.
Technically speaking, they’re no different to normal radio ads. However, they are targeted, as they only play to people listening to their radio on their smart speaker at the time. They’re not properly interactive like Instreamatic (yet), but they work.
Why Actionable Audio Ads are important
The problem with radio advertising, or all forms of audio advertising, for that matter, is that they don’t have any immediacy, urgency or natural call to action built in. That means listeners can’t be impulsive and act on an audio ad in the moment.
Think of your typical radio ad. They’re all the same:
“This week only, a big sofa sale! Everything’s 50% off and interest free finance available. Just pop down to your local sofa store“
“Test drive the new BMW today, just head to your nearest showroom“
“Cheap car insurance, visit cheapcarinsurance.com“
They all require you to make a huge context-switching effort to act on them.
With an Actionable Audio Ad, the call to action is something like “Just wake your smart speaker and say “Open Deal of the Day”.
The effort to act is literally just remembering the skill name, then talking. And you can do that using your short term memory and act immediately given that you’re within earshot of your smart speaker.
Why acquire a tech platform?
Say It Now is historically an agency. A service-based company that builds chatbots and Alexa skills. Why then, would it acquire a tech company?
Simple, the Global Radio partnership was a trial. It was a proof of concept to see whether people would actually act on smart speaker ads. Obviously, they do. And so what’s next?
Well, with a partnership with one of the largest radio stations in the UK, a case study from Berocca, what’s stopping this capability from being offered to any brand?
Imagine a world where brands can run ads specifically targeting smart speaker owners, who’re listening to their smart speaker at the time, with an ad that directs them to a branded skill to access a product, deal, content or otherwise. Now imagine there was a one-stop-shop that allowed you to build your skill, create your ad, decide where and when you want it to play, set your budget and targeting parameters, then sit back and relax.
Well, that’s what I think Say It Now is building.
Overcoming the two core challenges for brands
One of the most difficult parts for brands getting started with voice marketing is the skill building process. It can be hard, costly and complex, especially if you’re aiming for evergreen success.
In purchasing GetStarted, Say It Now has acquired the technology and capabilities to quickly build skills for brands (or to let brands build skills themselves), even if those skills are short-lived and campaign-based, which I think we’ll see a lot more of in future.
The second and arguably the biggest challenge for brands when it comes to voice marketing is getting your skill discovered. There’s no natural organic discovery on Alexa and restrictions on advertising within skills (if you could find skills with sufficient traffic in the first place). So many brands spend a fortune on building a skill that no one ever uses.
Most people use their smart speaker to listen to the radio. In running ads on radio stations, Say It Now is placing ads in probably the only place where you’re a) allowed by Amazon and, crucially, b) the place where the volume is.
In proving that Actionable Audio Ads work, it looks like Say It Now might have cracked the discoverability issue, too.
The future of voice marketing for brands
So, with a tech platform where brands can build campaign-based skills, and a route to advertising, targeting smart speakers listeners, brands might finally be able to justify spending on Alexa. This could pave the way to the thing that’s been missing for so long on Alexa: a discoverability mechanism, third party services and, eventually, monetisation.
Looking forward to seeing where this goes for sure.