Spotify is Testing Interactive Audio Ads Offering Free Samples on Smart Speakers in the UK

Spotify has begun running voice-activated ads in the United Kingdom for cosmetics firm Nars. The ads mark a different approach from the interactive audio ads Spotify ran in a test for Unilever last year, but could represent a new approach for the industry as the COVID-19 health crisis and subsequent lockdown continues in the UK.

Audio Nars

The new advertising campaign plays on Spotify’s free streaming service on both Amazon and Google smart speakers. The ads end with the suggestion that the listener ask Alexa or Google Assistant for a free sample of blush, lipstick, or mascara delivered to their home. To get the cosmetics, listeners use Send Me a Sample, a marketing firm specializing in interactive campaigns for product trials. When they say, “Ask Send Me a Sample for Nars” to their voice assistant, the app guides them through registration, including their address, and the cosmetics are mailed to them. If they’ve previously registered with Send Me a Sample, they don’t have to do anything after making the vocal request. To create the actual ads, Spotify and Nars worked with The Story Lab and Vizeum agencies.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Nars and The Story Lab to deliver this innovative voice-activated ad campaign,” Spotify U.K. head of sales Rakesh Patel said in a statement. “At Spotify, we know there is huge potential within audio for advertisers, and it’s fantastic that Nars is utilizing the Spotify platform in a new way to get its products into the hands of our shared audiences. We see voice as a huge growth area within the industry, and we’re excited to be able to deliver screenless advertising solutions for brands.”

Lockdown Lab

Send Me a Sample has been part of several campaigns through smart speakers before. The company has worked to send samples from DKNY and Bacardi in the UK and Nutella in the U.S. On Spotify’s end, the Nars ads take a different approach to interactive audio ads than its Unilever campaign last year. In that case, an ad for Axe would end with a suggestion to play a curated playlist designed by the brand. Saying yes would queue up that playlist. Spotify created ads for its own channels and playlists as part of the experiment. NARS has its own playlist on Spotify

That test is much closer to the experiments by NPR with interactive audio ads using XAPPmedia several years ago as well as the interactive ads Pandora runs on its streaming service in a partnership with Instreamatic. In those instances, an ad will end by asking if a listener wants to know more, and provides more information about the brand if they say yes. For Pandora, Instreamatic collects and analyzes the data from those ads to develop improved campaigns.

The Nars campaign is built directly on reaching British people stuck at home during the COVID-19 lockdown. Traditional advertising and sample handouts aren’t feasible in the UK, hence the interest in the smart speaker-based approach, according to the companies involved. If the Spotify ads lead to a surge in cosmetics sales for Nars, more brands may turn to the combination of smart speaker audio and mailing physical samples to entice people into trying and buying their products even after the quarantine restrictions ease.

“Delivering samples directly to consumers’ doors is a great workaround, and something we hope can add a bit of delight during these times,” The Story Lab senior partnership manager Hannah Scott said in a statement. “Given that people in lockdown are tuning into their smart speakers more than ever, collaborating with Spotify was the perfect fit.”


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