Can Talking With Consumers Help Brands Avert the Ad “Likeability” Crisis?

I believe brands stand at the cusp of a technological renaissance with a tremendously bright future – or at least the potential for one. But getting there means overcoming a lethal “likeability” challenge, as continued high-frequency exposure to low-quality and irrelevant ad experiences has driven consumers to the conclusion that they simply hate ads.

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Consumers are so bombarded with brands’ digital promotions that they’ve adapted to tuning it out as noise, raising a mental barrier against true engagement. A report from media investment firm GroupM characterizes the situation as “dangerous days for advertisers,” finding that the industry has thus far been slow to adjust technologically and creatively to the advertising environment now dominated by Google and Facebook. The report also acknowledges the influence of ad-free entertainment models like Netflix and YouTube Premium, which increasingly lure many of the young and affluent viewers valuable to advertisers away from ad experiences entirely. In other words: today’s ads are so loathed that consumers will gladly open their wallets to escape them if they have the means to do so.

Given this reality, advertisers must begin to deliver more targeted and enjoyable ad experiences representative of the industry’s future if, well, they’re going to be a part of it. A research report from Forrester starkly outlines the challenge and opportunity the industry faces, concluding that advertisers absolutely must change or risk irrelevance. Forrester’s research predicts that by the end of this decade, automation and machine learning with transform four-in-five agency jobs, and that advertisers must begin to incorporate these technologies, as well as data-driven platforms, into their creative processes to thrive going forward.

Still very much a greenfield opportunity and differentiator for brands, voice dialogue advertising serves as a ready example of the advances in delivering ad experiences built with likeability in mind. Dialogue advertising taps into AI and machine learning to foster brief and interactive voice conversations that actively (and creatively) engage with consumers. With this ad format, consumers using microphone-enabled devices (phones, smart speakers, etc.) to listen to streaming or on-demand audio are prompted to engage with a verbal call-to-action. Voice ads enable brands to ask directly if the consumer is interested in a particular offer, for example, to learn more about a product. Consumers then interact with the ad by speaking out loud in natural language and can answer affirmatively to move the conversation along or negatively to swiftly complete the ad experience if not interested (and get back to their regular content).

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The conversational aspect is essential here. There is a strong consumer preference (and 4x ad engagement rate) for natural language conversations compared to keyword-based (e.g., “yes” or “no”) voice interactions with a necessity to remember a specific keyword instead of an ability to speak naturally and have an ad not just understand it, but to move the conversation forward.

For advertisers, the AI at the heart of this strategy tack should provide real-time metrics and analysis of every consumer interaction, enabling brands to put data to use for optimizing campaigns and fine-tuning experiences that increase their relevance for each listener (as an individual). Some brands are also pushing continuous dialogue communications, whereby advertisers are building brand relationships by ongoing conversations with individual listeners across a series of ads and across channels and audio publishers. Advertisers can craft each subsequent ad while leveraging the complete data history of each listener’s past responses and engagement with the ad campaign. In this way, ongoing and natural dialogues boost marketing efficiency by enabling advertisers to recognize listeners upon whom further ad spend would be wasted. Advertisers can also communicate differently with listeners who are not yet interested but might be won over by another approach that uses different content. Major brands such as Infiniti are using continuous dialogue communications, boosting engagement and conversion by providing optimized and individually-targeted content at every brand touchpoint.

As consumers increasingly dismiss passive ads as noise, the most common solution for advertisers leveraging traditional technology is simply turning up the volume. The often-cited advertising “rule of three” states that consumers shouldn’t be expected to think about an offer until they’ve been presented with it three times. In contrast, ads that actively engage consumers can succeed while being brief delivered much less frequently, and, using technology like continuous dialogue communications, never in the same way twice.

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Emerging tactics offering ads that actively engage consumers to have the power to cut through, producing ad experiences that aren’t dismissed as noise but as a brand’s voice speaking directly to the consumer and listening to their (specific) needs. It should be no surprise that this active approach results in experiences that consumers find more memorable and meaningful in practice. Unlike the nuisance that passive ads can too often be, the individually-tailored and actively conversational ads representing the industry’s future offer brand experiences – fueled by data and new avenues to show creativity – that consumers can enjoy.

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