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Spotify’s new feature will let you talk with its ads

By Sofia Gallarate

May 13, 2019

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With 217 million monthly active users—and with this number set to grow—Spotify is undeniably top of the game in the streaming market. Considering these figures, the company has been extra efficient in monetising every aspect of the platform to make the highest profit out of its broad user base. With an array of different options—from sponsored playlists to video takeover—Spotify for Brands has been offering all kinds of ad experiences to its clients. Today, the streaming platform is testing yet another advertisement programme: voice-enabled audio ads, a new interactive feature that hasn’t been tested by any other platform yet.

The feature works on the premise that the audio advertisements that usually interrupt playlists on Spotify could be used to a greater extent by also offering listeners to switch to a playlist curated by the brand whose advertisement just played. How? With the use of voice command. The new marketing feature allows listeners to interact with the advertisement by saying a specific phrase while the commercial is playing. By saying out loud ‘Play now’ when prompted by an audio commercial, the listener could activate the curated playlist from the brand (which comes with more commercials) that will start streaming instead of what the person was previously listening to.

The feature, that only works if users have their microphone enabled, was launched on May 2 in the U.S. with Spotify Free users, just a few days after the company CEO Daniel Ek stated that the voice space is a “critical area of growth” for the company. Spotify is currently only testing out the feature with its own podcasts and an AXE audio commercial for Unilever.

Although voice commands are becoming ubiquitous within technology, many industry professionals have raised their concern on the functionality of this new project. “Voice commands are becoming second nature to us, just as swiping on a tablet or phone already is today,” told Leslie Walsh, executive director of strategy at agency Episode Four, to AdAge. Just because people are becoming increasingly accustomed to using their voices to activate and control a variety of home devices, doesn’t necessarily imply that users will be equally willing to interact with an advertisement. “While the ‘Play now’ voice command is a shiny new feature, as with all new shiny things in tech, brands need to make sure they have something of value to offer to listeners before jumping on it.” adds Walsh.

Spotify’s Audio Everywhere, the standard audio ad package offered by the streaming company, already allows brands to “Reach your target audience on any device, in any environment, during any moment of the day” as it reads on Spotify’s website. Today, the new feature enables brands not only to reach their target audience anywhere, but also to measure how effective their ads are based on the users’ immediate reactions to them. To do so, brands have to be particularly efficient in producing relevant and engaging content for both the audio advertisement and its following playlist. Something that has yet to be proven possible.

Spotify’s ‘Play now’ feature is not groundbreaking in terms of voice command technology, as both Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa enable to extend native applications through the use of the voice. But as Tom Edwards, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Epsilon, explains, “The Spotify experience adds a monetization angle to that experience.” The streaming platform’s new experiment is reducing the distance between clients and advertisers. Spotify is asking its users to literally answer to advertisements, and whether this will be a successful feature or not, one thing is certain: this project is paving the way for a whole new advertisement era that will see listeners playing an increasingly active role within the brands’ marketing strategies.