Given our reliance on mobile devices, it’s tempting to assume that screens will continue to dominate our lives for years to come. But perhaps not. Given the increasing popularity of virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, we are moving from the Screen Age to the Voice Age.
Advertisers, of course, have noticed this shift – and many of them are experimenting with voice-activated advertising. You may remember that Burger King (via ad agency David) sparked controversy – and reams of earned media – with a TV ad that invaded homes by posing a simple question: “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?”
A recent article on Gizmodo suggested that Amazon’s Echo devices – for which Alexa is the voice – could become “advertising machines” by recommending specific brands for household tasks. “Alexa, how do I make my windows shiny?” Then Alexa simply replies with the name of the advertiser.
To read the article, click here
But voice activation can also be used for good. Saatchi & Saatchi Stockholm came up with an ingenious way of preventing motorists from using their phones while driving – one of the biggest causes of accidents. As long as Siri was activated, a simple radio ad was able to take control.
Meanwhile, the bedtime story for children is evolving, thanks to voice-activated apps like Novel Effect and Sound Book. Specific words in the narrative trigger sound effects and speech.
When you think of voices, you eventually think of singing. Which brings us to a neat project from Serviceplan in Germany and South London rappers Too Many T’s. The rappers teamed up with Alexa to create the first ever song in which the virtual assistant is a vocalist. They do it simply by adding voice commands to their rap. Take a look at the resulting promo.
There may be a few downsides to this voice activation business. For example, judging by the next couple of ads, it may allow your partner (or your annoying dad) to take over the TV.
By the way, have you noticed that virtual assistants almost always have female voices? Why is that? Is it because they are supposed to be in some way…subservient? Or is it because of the boys’ club ambience of Silicon Valley? The following clip from the agency Paper in Ecuador – for a women’s equality association – makes that provocative point.
It’s something to think about: instead of Alexa, why not Alex? Or maybe even the husky tones of Alec Baldwin? After all, the actor already works for Amazon…
But wait: remember that Super Bowl spot from Lucky Generals? Changing Alexa’s voice may not be such a great idea.