One of the biggest challenges facing marketers today is reaching people at a time when they are willing to pay attention to advertising. The shift to digital consumption and on-demand content means that people are more intolerant of interruption. But maybe smart speakers bring a new, more passive audience willing to listen to ads.
Let me admit this up front. We do not have a smart speaker in our home. Smart battery back-up, yes, smart thermostats, yes, smart switches, yes, but I don’t feel the need for voice activation. Pressing a button to turn on the radio does not seem like a big deal to me, but apparently it is for many. Recode reports that smart speakers are mostly being used to access existing content like the radio in a new way.
The Recode article reports that playing music and other content is by far the most popular use of smart speakers in the U.S. today. Spotify finds that people using smart speakers are more likely to play music every day and listen at weekends. National Public Radio finds that the proportion of people listening on smart speakers has jumped from 4 percent to 19 percent, providing an additional source of listeners. And according to Scout FM people are listening to podcasts longer on smart speakers than on phones and far less likely to skip advertisements.
Cara Meverden, founder of Scout FM, states,
“Smart speaker listeners are much more passive.”
For marketers, this might give hope that the digital future is going to be more than a two second sound bite. Far from being a bad thing, passivity is a good when it comes to the consumption of advertising. Lacking the inclination to skip, people consume large amounts of content that they would otherwise dismiss. TV, outdoor, and radio all offer a more passive experience than digital media and, as a result, are often what primes interest in a multi-media campaign. The trick for the advertiser is to engage just enough attention that the ideas and feelings conveyed by an ad stick in people’s heads. This then primes interest and encourages people to pay attention to more easily skipped content.
So far from developing a vast array of new skills, maybe advertisers need to think more about traditional audio ads and branded or sponsored content. Prior to Thanksgiving it seemed inevitable that Butterball would suggest we say, “Hey, Alexa ask Butterball” to get cooking advice from their Turkey-Talk Line experts, but maybe a good, old-fashioned passive ad interspersed into other content might work more effectively?
Written by Nigel Hollis, Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst at Kantar Millward Brown.