Interactive Voice Ads Are Here: How Brands Can Jumpstart Customer Engagement on Audio Platforms

Credit: Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

Interactive voice advertising is enabling brands to engage with customers like never before. Brands can now speak with consumers in their own voice, carrying out back-and-forth conversations that allow the consumer to interact by speaking aloud in their natural language.

That feeling of being heard and conversing with a brand creates more memorable and emotional experiences, offering a new opportunity to forge connections and build loyalty between brands and consumers.

Making the Consumer the Main Character

The most effective campaigns (across any ad medium) tell a story that connects with consumers – but voice ads go a step further by giving the consumer agency over how the story unfolds. The consumer has full control over his or her path forward with the brand; if an offer is relevant, they can respond aloud affirmatively in natural language, be understood, and move the conversation along.

 
 

If an ad is irrelevant, the listener can skip it with a word or a few and quickly return to their regular audio content.

The ad technology also goes beyond enabling simple “yes” or “no” responses by understanding the emotion and tone of the consumer’s voice. For example, someone that gives a ‘soft no’ response (such as “No, not right now” or “No, I’d have to think about it”) receives a different reply – and is placed in a different retargeting category – than someone offering a ‘strong no’ response.

With these capabilities, interactive voice ads have so much more to offer than traditional one-way audio ads. They can enable more creative storytelling and integrate deeper data-backed analysis and media targeting to help enrich the consumer experience and the campaign results.

 
 

Voice Ads in Action: Pizza Hut India

Pizza Hut India ran a voice ad campaign on Gaana (India’s largest music streaming platform) using Instreamatic as the underlying AI-powered voice ad technology platform. The voice ad campaign included dialogues customized for lunchtime and dinnertime to promote a buy-one-get-one offer. For example, the dinnertime ad creative reminded the listener that “It’s dinner time,” followed by a call-to-action to “Share a meal together” with friends or family.

“Brands should make sure they fully understand the nuances of voice interactions and enter it with a thorough understanding of the format’s unique requirements, which spread across technology, data, strategy, and creative.”

Each dialogue explained to listeners that they could speak aloud to interact with the ad then presented the campaign’s offer. Listeners who expressed interest were informed that the ordering page would open on their devices, while those who weren’t interested received a brief response and were returned to their music on Gaana.

Those interactions earned a 4.4% voice engagement rate and a 2.93% positive response rate. Compared to the typical 0.1% engagement rate for banner ads, it was a tremendous response. The engagement rate was also 8x higher than the average for a standard audio campaign without two-way voice interactions.

The campaign then leveraged “continuous dialogue” capabilities to retarget consumers with tailored ad creative based on their initial responses. Among consumers who had declined the offer, these second dialogues earned a 13.9% voice engagement rate – with 5.2% responding positively that they would like to order pizzas. At the same time, 3% of consumers who had a soft ‘not interested’ response to the first ad interaction changed their minds in the second engagement.

The results of this campaign offer great insights into how voice advertising can empower brands to create and deliver intimate and ongoing conversations that learn and adapt to consumers’ individual preferences – and do it at scale through AI-fueled programmatic advertising.

Amplifying the Conversation

This journey can also be progressive, with brands able to learn about consumers through their history of previous responses and fine-tune creative approaches and targeted offers that increase the relevancy of future ads delivered to those same individuals. This means brands can connect with consumers more accurately and successfully, achieving improved engagement rates and ROI.

With the right creative content, each voice ad can offer fresh, engaging, and memorable dialogue experiences. And while the content of a voice ad typically centers on a metrics-driven call-to-action positioned as an enticing possibility, it can also be a powerful tool for building brand awareness.

As part of the Pizza Hut campaign, Xaxis (GroupM’s outcome media specialist) found that the simple act of engaging with these ads by voice also drives significant brand recall and intent to use a brand, enabling successful awareness campaigns as well. (A July 2021 Nielsen study looking at brand recall and intent via voice ad exposure in India found that dialogue campaigns increased a user’s consideration of a product or service by 12% compared to a control group – a significant uplift for studies of this nature.)

Consumers leave the experience feeling like the brand heard and understood them, which builds trust and affinity that can support long-term brand-consumer relationships.

While this format has shown incredible potential to support both immediate and long-term marketing goals, it’s important to remember that it’s still nascent. Brands should make sure they fully understand the nuances of voice interactions and enter it with a thorough understanding of the format’s unique requirements, which spread across technology, data, strategy, and creative.

It is also worth noting that the human voice that listeners hear (and respond to) is a crucial part of the brand experience in audio ads, and that the voice should map to the brand personality. Brands using audio ads will pre-record human-delivered audio responses to immediately match the tone and content of a listener’s response (and keep the conversation moving).

We all know the potential frustrations that can arise from interacting with poorly designed automated systems, and we know that not all consumers welcome all types of advertising. But I am encouraged by our results so far. This format sits at the convergence of advanced technology and intelligent creativity, and presents a suite of new technical and creative challenges. Xaxis is excited to explore all of them and build on this initial success.

Atique Kazi

Atique Kazi

Atique Kazi is President – Data, Performance and Digital Products, GroupM India and a contributor to Branding in Asia Magazine

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