Is the future of mobile in ads that interact with consumers?

Mobile advertising spending is on the rise. According to a study by and reported in this article on Mashable, spending on mobile advertising will increase to $7.19 billion in 2013, up from $4.06 billion in 2012. That’s an increase of 177 percent in just one year.

Mobile advertising includes a lot of different kinds of advertising like mobile search, location-based advertising, and ads inside apps. As a change of pace today from practical advice, this post is about what might be the future of mobile advertising: ads that talk back to you.

People with smart phones are probably familiar with a great feature, which is that you can use a microphone button on screen to do a voice-based search in a search engine or dictate a text or email. You touch the microphone button, and then start talking. The phone does the typing. It’s not perfect, but it is pretty ingenious.

Similar in concept is a new interactive type of ad that can carry on a two-way conversation with the consumer. Just this past April 1, a 20-year-old software company called Nuance announced an initiative to start figuring out how to make these interactive apps a viable possibility. According to Nuance CMO Peter Mahoney speaking to AdWeek “Mobile advertising hasn’t worked well. Engagement has been a challenge, and we think that’s where voice ads come in.”

According to the same AdWeek article, some big marketing companies who are seeing the potential are partnering with Nuance; these companies include Leo Burnett, Digitas, and Millennial Media.

An NPR story also recently covered this phenomenon. NPR’s Henn noted that these apps are still pretty new and unsophisticated, but they have potential. According to Stanford professor Clifford Nass, who studies human-computer interaction and was interviewed for the NPR story, “The human brain is built for speech, so anything that sounds like a voice, our brains just light up and we get an enormous range of social and other responses…. Our brains are built to treat these conversations with computer-based voices to an incredible degree like [conversations] we are having with actual people — including flattery, flirtation and all the rest. We will see all of those same responses [with ads that speak].”

These ads also have the potential to go really wrong. Again according to Nass “When they work well, they’re fantastic; when they work poorly, they’re really insulting and disturbing.”

What do you think about ads that interact verbally with you? Would you be more likely to spend time with them than a traditional ad?


2 thoughts on “Is the future of mobile in ads that interact with consumers?

  1. bmambers

    I think voice ads help engage users better because there is a more personal or animated interaction than just an annoying pop up. In my Pandora app I still have the ad version and although the ads at times can be intrusive I think they work well for the platform. The ads are relevant to my interests and even promo codes are easy to remember. I know a lot of promotions that are run through the app have the promo code Pandora or Pandora1 which makes the deal really easy to remember if you plan on visiting the site at a later time. Also some companies promote sponsored playlists with their products so it has a more meaningful impact as well. Sponsored playlists are a win/win for companies and consumers because they let you enjoy different music while the company shamelessly promotes their products.

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  2. celeste Post author

    I agree that the Pandora voice ads are a little more attention getting than regular ads, especially if you are listening to Pandora and have minimized the Pandora window while you’re doing something else. If that’s the case, a text ad or graphic ad doesn’t get your attention like a voice ad does.

    Pandora is one place that Nuance mentioned using interactive ads. It will be interesting to see if it or another company is able to make the breakthrough and have ads be voice interactive. Right now, the technology is pretty limited to very basic, defined conversations. If the technology develops into truly interactive conversations, that will be great to witness!


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