Opinion

Forget millennials, voice assistants are the new marketing audience

With Google Home and Amazon's Alexa now a staple in many homes, marketers need to start figuring out how to market to robots, writes Publicis Media's Patrick Whitnall.

Ok Google, so yes, I have accepted Google Home in to my household and become one of “those guys” as my mates tell me. It really is early days. Our usage is limited to asking the weather each morning, playing music, setting cooking timers and asking Google to relay animal noises to my two-year-old. We are not quite at the stage of buying smart light bulbs, so I still have some respect left with my friends.

It has, however, started to make me think about the possibilities that Google Home will have not only on my family’s lives, but also for our clients. One area is the creation of a new audience for advertisers.

We have become accustomed to our clients’ websites being technically sound and to have content that ensures relevancy in search, but with the growth of machine learning, do we start thinking about how we advertise to bots or how we convince them that our brand or service is far superior than our competitors as we become reliant on them to make recommendations?

In the future, beyond just buying this space through paid voice search, how can brands prepare and create content that is relevant, personalised and timely?

I recently saw how brands are starting to create and test in this space at CES in Las Vegas earlier this year. A common challenge for alcohol brands is to try and increase usage through different usage occasions.

Patron Tequila, whilst having high brand awareness, wanted to move away from the ‘served as a shot’ halo around the brand. They created a ‘Bot-tender’ for devices such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, which suggests recipes and creations, sourced from local trends, behavioural insights and personal preferences to serve up bespoke Patron cocktails – and can even get the ingredients delivered to your door.

The natural next phase for these devices is to do a number of tasks for me, such as booking tickets and shopping. But, how do I get to these choices? Content will have to become even more platform agnostic, adaptable and sellable to the various machines or operating systems, still based on what people are searching for and talking about in social.

Siri, Alexa and Google Home will become just as important an audience as our traditional human ones. When we are thinking of things to do this weekend, some humans, such as myself, find this difficult even with the current search methods. Machines will decipher the multitude of choices for me, look for the most appealing option and make the suggestion through sound.

So, what does this mean for marketers and publishers? Juniper Research forecasts that more than $US12 billion of advertising spend globally, per year, will be spent on digital assistants by 2021. Over that time, voice search could possibly replace traditional search. For publishers, this could reduce traffic to websites and therefore reduce advertising revenues.

In the US, brands are starting to build their utility or service into home assistants – from ordering pizza to an Uber, tracking spending with your bank or talking insurance queries. The area of growth will be around personal experiences, content or what skills you can create to best represent your brand, aurally. Otherwise, you will simply be reliant on Google’s voice to represent you – and all your competitors.

I might be the trendy guy joke to my friends, but one day I will be able to organise the perfect event for us, I won’t have to rely on my partner, and instead a voice assistant could replace our partners. Think I’ve already seen that movie!

Patrick Whitnall is head of content at Publicis Media Australia and New Zealand.

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