VoiceLabs has been testing advertising on Amazon Echo and is now expanding the program for “sponsored messages” to a broader set of Alexa skill developers. The company sent out a note to users last week suggesting that a program is already underway and has been generating favorable results.
Over the last few months, we’ve tested Sponsored Messages at scale in partnership with several developers on the VoiceLabs Network. Our skill partners were so pleased with the results, we decided it was time to open it up to the rest of you!
Soon, we will be announcing our advertising partners. They are household names, who have conviction in the voice space and in the applications that you all have built.
Just Bring Your Audience to Make Money
VoiceLabs announced in January that its customers were serving one million Amazon Echo users. Very few, if any, Amazon Alexa skills have enough users to capture advertising spend from brands. The ad buys would be too small for them to consider. However, by combining users across skills, VoiceLabs appears to be aggregating a large enough audience base for advertisers to be interested. The offer to developers appears to simply be to opt-in to the program and VoiceLabs will provide the advertisers and distribute the proceeds. A VoiceLabs executive said he could not comment on the program details.
Avoiding Google Home’s Disney Backlash
The conventional wisdom has been that personal voice assistant users are not ready for advertising and we have empirical evidence on this. Just last month, Google attempted to deliver an ad on both Google Home and Google Assistant related to a new Disney movie opening. The reaction on Reddit and Twitter was swift and negative. Google quickly took down the ad, said that it was an experiment, that Disney didn’t pay for it, but was aware of the test. Not a great reception. It was about as popular as Google Glass.
VoiceLabs suggests is has been running these “sponsored message” ads and I am aware of no backlash on social media. Considering the Amazon Echo user base is more than 10 times larger than Google Home, you would expect someone to have noticed and commented on it. Then again, we don’t yet know the nature of the ads so they may not be as obvious as the 15 -second insertion ad that Google ran for Disney. Nor do we know how many ads have been served. This may be a much smaller scale test that Google’s experiment. If you have come across one of these ads please share your findings on the Voicebot Facebook Page or in the Voice Web LinkedIn Group. I’m sure everyone will be interested to learn more.
Not the Only Promotion on the Echo
Several of the top Alexa skills are ambient noise variants developed by Nick Schwab. These include Rain Sounds, Ocean Sounds, Thunderstorm Sounds. When he introduced the new Babbling Brook ambient noise skill, he promoted it with a short audio introduction to users when started his existing skills to raise awareness. No negative reviews showed up in the Amazon Alexa skill store after he began the experiment. So, not all advertising will necessarily drive the negative reaction that Google received. In addition, this cross-skill promotion use case is one example of how the challenge of skill discovery can be addressed if you already have an audience on the platform.
You Must Apply to Get Access
Not everyone is being accepted into the VoiceLabs program right now. VoiceLabs is asking developers to apply by April 21st to be considered for the next phase of “sponsored messages” roll-out. They are accepting inquiries by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.