Amazon Reportedly Begins Testing Voice Ads With Alexa

Alexa is here to help—but she may first offer up a new cleaning product.

Virtual assistants were a huge gift idea this past holiday, and while advertisements dominate other forms of media and entertainment, they haven’t quite made it onto virtual assistants. Amazon is looking to change this.

The e-commerce giant—responsible for the Alexa assistant offered through its Echo and Echo Dot products—is reportedly in discussion with large companies to begin promoting goods through the virtual aid, according to CNBC. Companies like Proctor & Gamble and Clorox are in talks with Amazon to let Alexa suggest branded products to purchase.

As of now, there is no clear indication regarding how Amazon will identify promoted responses, or if they will at all. There are actually a few paid branded responses already built in to Alexa that are not tied to a user’s history. If a user asks to buy toothpaste, they may hear something like, “Okay, I can look for a brand, like Colgate. What would you like?”

Branded partnerships are a natural progression for a medium that has been lacking any sort of real advertising, and it works especially well for Alexa, as the assistant can order anything from Amazon right away.

Ads on a virtual auditory platform invoke a few questions, mainly around what kind of product will be mentioned first. If both Colgate and Crest buy advertising, which one will pop up first when a user asks for toothpaste? The answers could be weighted depending on how much an advertiser pays, but that is just begging for some kind of regulatory compliance issue.

Some experts believe that when voice advertising becomes a real market, a wild-west-like showdown for vocal SEO will occur, prompting the biggest advertisers to stake out massive claims to make sure they are the first companies uttered out of Alexa or other smart assistant-powered speakers.

Another experiment from Alexa looks to leverage the assistant by recommending similar products from the same brand. If a customer orders Clorox, they may be told about the company’s disinfectant wipes as well.

If and when virtual assistant ads are introduced, it could be a major boon to Amazon’s web advertising businesses. Even though the company ranks first in e-commerce, they trail Google and Facebook in advertising by a huge margin. Amazon’s products currently dominate the market, as over 70 per cent of total virtual assistants come from the company and use Alexa.

Alexa is continuing to roll out in major markets, and recently had full functionality go live in Canada in November 2017. Amazon has even partnered with Microsoft to enable cross-assistant integration with Cortana.