Pandora Widens Interactive Ads Program and Upgrades Voice Assistant to Find Specific Songs
Pandora will start playing its interactive audio ads for a wider audience starting this week. As part of the expanded scope for the conversational ads, the streaming service also upgraded its Voice Mode virtual assistant, a year after debuting the hands-free controls.
The interactive ads ask listeners if they want to hear extra content from an advertiser, although usually in a brand-specific way. The listener may get asked if they have trouble sleeping by a mattress seller or a restaurant may ask if they are hungry. If they say yes, or some variant that the AI can understand, they will then hear sponsored food recommendations or tips for curing insomnia. Giant brands like Unilever, Nestlé, Wendy’s, and Comcast were already participating in the beta, and their ads will now be heard by far more Pandora listeners.
The interactive ads are built on advertising tech developer Instreamatic’s platform, linking what the listener hears and how they interact with the ad to data analytics that advertisers can use to improve their ad campaigns. As brands have become more interested in interactive ads, Instreamatic has been connecting with a long list of potential clients. Salem Media Group, one of the biggest multimedia distribution services in the U.S., inked an agreement last year to make Instreamatic’s platform available to advertisers on its networks and has similar arrangements with other streaming groups.
Though Instreamatic links up the advertising and additional information commands, Pandora’s Voice Mode voice assistant is the key for the conversational element on the platform. Voice Mode is built on SoundHound’s Houndify platform, and Pandora spent six months testing it before launching it for everyone last summer. Voice Mode enables vocal control of Pandora, but had a fairly limited list of commands, like asking for recommendations or playing favorite playlists. Now, listeners can ask for specific songs or albums by voice. The voice assistant upgrade is tied to the advertising, however. The new Voice Mode commands are only available if the listener watches an advertising video first, even if they already subscribe to the premium version of Pandora.
Pandora’s investment in interactive ads and a voice assistant point to where the company sees the future of streaming services, but it won’t be without competition in both arenas. Spotify too has started playing with interactive ads. The company ran its own interactive ads for Unilever a year ago and recently started supporting a campaign in the United Kingdom for cosmetics firm Nars. The Nars campaign is built around free samples ordered via a smart speaker, but the interactive aspect is largely the same. Spotify is also rumored to be developing a voice assistant with its own wake word, potentially as part of a device for playing music and podcasts and cars that the company has said it is developing.