Alexa Quietly Tests Running Advertisements During Games
Alexa is sprinkling ads during voice games according to social media reports by players. The advertisements seem to be part of an unannounced test by Amazon, as developers are prohibited from incorporating advertising in Alexa skills under the current policy. Revising the rules could open up lucrative new revenue streams for developers from advertisers and users willing to pay for an ad-free version of the voice app.
The ads came to Voicebot’s attention in a Twitter query posed by Mark Frizzell about hearing ads while playing the popular Alexa game Question of the Day. The question was sponsored by an advertiser in a manner Frizzell found off-putting and he asked QOTD about an ad-free version of the app. The developer suggested signing up for its $2.36 a month Trivia Club, which will eliminate ads as one of a handful of premium features.
Voicebot attempted to prompt ads on QOTD, but couldn’t replicate Frizzell’s experience. That likely means the ads are probably still in the pilot stage, appearing only on a limited number of Alexa Skills at infrequent intervals. Voice apps that see regular engagement like a daily trivia game would make a good testing ground in that case. Another indicator that the ads are still in the early stages is that getting rid of them is not listed on the Trivia Club’s Alexa Skill Store page as one of the benefits of joining. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.
As Voicebot founder Bret Kinsella noted in Voice Insider, advertisements in these kinds of Alexa skills are unambiguously forbidden except in narrow and very specific cases. Streaming services and flash briefings can incorporate audio ads, but they can’t use Alexa’s voice or imitate Alexa and it can’t be different from ads that would be included on other platforms. Games are not one of the exceptions at the moment, but there’s momentum in that direction as the value of smart speaker ads in other contexts becomes more evident.
For instance, AdTonos ran an interactive audio ad campaign in London late last year for Audi through smart speakers that would ask if listeners wanted to book an Audi test drive. Pandora’s success in early experiments led to expanding its interactive ad campaign, while Spotify’s campaigns have included Unilever brands and UK cosmetics firm Nars. A Cumulus Media case study published early this year found that those who heard an ad for the Southeast Michigan Ford Dealers Association on their smart speaker were 24% more likely to be familiar with the brand.
“Ads are coming to Alexa skills near you. I’m guessing that Amazon will want a cut of the action and might even be selling the ad space,” Kinsella said. “This might not be what you wanted when you thought about your friendly assistant helping you each day. But, advertising appears to always be the unstoppable force of the digital world. On the bright side, it just might lead to some better monetization options for third-party skill developers.”