Amazon Tips Its Hand on Alexa Ads

Although Amazon maintains there are no plans to put ads on its Alexa voice assistant — the brains behind the Echo line of smart speakers — they’ve started asking advertisers what kind of ads they might pay for.

Alexa-based Amazon Echo series in 6 colors.

Although Amazon maintains there are no plans to put ads on its Alexa voice assistant — the brains behind the Echo line of smart speakers — they’ve started asking advertisers what kind of ads they might pay for.

I’ve been talking a lot about the development of voice search, AI assistants and smart speakers lately, and what they could mean for digital advertising in the future. (Maybe you’ve heard some of it …) But so far, the actual advertising side of that has been a guessing game. Here are a few advertising options, but clearly Amazon is letting the user base build before revealing the actual shape of its offering to brands.

But just yesterday, CNBC reported that Amazon has started asking serious questions about the viability of Alexa advertising. According to anonymous sources, they’ve gone as far as asking major CPG brands what kinds of sponsorships they’d be wiling to pay for:

With Alexa, where advertising is currently limited, Amazon is in talks to offer companies a variety of promotional opportunities, including some that are already being tested.

One experiment in the works is letting companies target users based on past shopping behavior. For example, Alexa may suggest to a shopper who previously bought Clorox’s Pine-Sol to consider buying its disinfecting wipes. Amazon is also looking to tap advertising in Alexa’s skills. Someone asking the Echo for help cleaning up a spill might be nudged to use a specific brand.

There are already some sponsorships on Alexa that aren’t tied to a user’s history. If a shopper asks Alexa to buy toothpaste, one response is, “Okay, I can look for a brand, like Colgate. What would you like?”

Although Amazon responded to that article by saying there are no current plans to advertise on Alexa, the conversations are certainly plausible, and they reveal some interesting ideas.

For starters, the promotional opportunities are all pretty singular. Unlike Google search ads, where you might see a handful of promoted posts, these ads sound like they’ll be exclusive, and presented before non-sponsored options are event mentioned. That’s a pretty powerful sponsorship.

Second, linking the direct-order potential of Alexa to what amounts to audio push-notifications for brand you buys creates a loyalty model almost as powerful as continuity programs.

Of course, these ad types are all just in the discussion phase, but Amazon is clearly aiming for an experience that’s more like targeted, data-driven online advertising than broadcast radio.

Author: Thorin McGee

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.

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