5 Reasons Ads That Talk To You Are A Bad Idea

Becky Doles

The future of advertising is undoubtedly mobile – but what will these advertisements look like? Nuance, makers of Swype and Dragon Dictation, has unveiled a new type of mobile advertising that will allow consumers to talk back to ads on mobile devices. When this ad format appears on a mobile device, users can push a button to talk to the ad and the ad will talk back and answer a question or otherwise respond to the user.

One of the primary purposes of these ads is to drive “natural consumer engagement.” As Nuance’s website says, “Stop and think about it: the mobile phone was designed for talking in the first place.”

“It’s sort of like a little slice of a virtual assistant application,” said Nuance chief marketing officer Peter Mahoney. “It’s designed to engage you so you can literally have a direct conversation with a brand.” He added that “There are some really interesting applications for ads that have a data gathering or survey application. You could imagine seeing an ad for a coffee shop that says, ‘Hey I can give you free drink coupon. What’s your favorite coffee?’ And you could say, ‘I would like a double mocha chai.’ And it would understand what that was and say, ‘Let me give you a coupon for one of those that you like.”

But are talking ads really a good idea for both brands and consumers? Here’s why we think these new ad format from Nuance are destined to fail.

1. Consumers will look pretty silly talking to themselves

If I’m at home, it’s not likely that I’m on my mobile device; I’m either on my laptop or offline entirely. The rest of my day I’m at work; out with friends; out for a run, or running around the city. I use a headset when talking on the phone, and get plenty of strange looks when talking on the phone in public, as it often appears I’m talking to myself due to my long hair covering the earbuds and cord. Apps that encourage users to talk directly back to the phone would only exacerbate this problem on a more global level, making even more people (especially those who don’t live in urban environments) just look either really crazy or really lonely. (Or, well, both.) The social ramifications of this will likely discourage consumers from interacting with apps using their voice, causing this app format from Nuance to backfire for advertisers that wish to leverage it.

2. You might not want people to overhear what ads you’re really interested in

For those who don’t mind verbally interacting with their phone, especially in the privacy of their own home, there’s the possibility that others may overhear the type of ad or ad content they are interacting with. Nuance’s demo video highlights this problem exceptionally well, as it includes the example of a man asking if he should buy his girlfriend an engagement ring. One could only imagine if a girlfriend in that scenario overheard that question. (Surprise?!) In other situations, an advertiser could also bake in responses to consumers that may not be appropriate to be heard in certain environments or demographics – such as in front of children.

3. These aren’t auto play…but what if you accidentally click the button?

At some point in our life, we’ve all done it. It’s easy to accidentally dial, click, and switch buttons on mobile devices – although thanks to advances in lock screen technology, it’s a little bit harder to do now than in years prior. But what happens if you’re bored, browsing the internet in a meeting or at one of your kids’ many plays/recitals/games – and suddenly that ad starts talking? These types of situations are a great opportunity to capture and convert consumers (or at least get them into the funnel), and advertisers should be more than wary of instead pushing them frantically away as they try to escape the ad entirely.

4. It’s just not that intuitive

As evidenced by Nuance’s ad demo, these types of ad formats are just not that intuitive. Though Nuance chief marketing officer Peter Mahoney gave an example of an ad that prompts users on what to say, the examples in Nuance’s demo video implies users will, somehow, intuitively know what to ask or say to the app. While this may work for the most tech-savvy/early adopters, this does not comprise the vast majority of mobile users, and will instead confuse consumers and not drive engagement and brand awareness for advertisers who use this ad format.

5. Engagement won’t necessarily drive conversions

Nuance is clear that two of the primary goals of this ad format is to drive engagement and “better brand recall.” Engagement and brand awareness, of course, does not necessarily drive conversions. These ads seem to lack any actual calls to action to drive users to any landing pages that enable the brand to generate leads from the ads – let alone enable consumers to make a purchase. While engagement and brand awareness is an important first step in acquiring customers, advertisers should ultimately be concerned about the bottom line and leveraging the best types of ad formats that get them there with as much ROI as possible.

What do you think of Nuance’s new ad formats? As a consumers, do you think you will like these ads, or will they annoy you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.

4 responses to “5 Reasons Ads That Talk To You Are A Bad Idea”

  1. Talking ads. Wow that’s pretty interesting. I’ve been wondering how Nuance was going to address their potential advertising reach through their technologies. Though I think the first go at talking ads may have some of the hiccups you talk about above, I’m very intrigued in how this will impact a user.
    Think about how this application might work with Google Glass or some other headset sort of device. As I walk by a store my virtual assistant let’s me know about a sale. Could get kinda interesting.

    The other thing you have to consider is how much your usage of that mobile device will change in time. I very much doubt you’ll even be using something that looks like a laptop at home in the future 😉

    thanks for pointing this out!

    • Nogalez says:

      I think that this will be just like any other type of advertising. It will work for some niches and some don’t.

      I absolutely wouldn’t trash this idea right away. It’s all about your own creativity after all.

  2. […] The future of advertising is undoubtedly mobile – but what will these advertisements look like? Nuance, makers of Swype and Dragon Dictation, has unveiled a new type of mobile advertising that will allow consumers to talk back to ads on … Read this post » …read more   […]

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