Monetizing mobile apps is a tricky business at the best of times, but one of the major monetization options is about to get a major upgrade. Last week, Nuance, the company that helped breathe life into iOS’s Siri, announced the implementation of Voice Ads, a program that will embed voice recognition into mobile ads and allow users to respond with their own speech. In other words, in the very near future you’re likely to have a conversation with your mobile marketeers.
In their promotional video, Nuance creates a fictional consumer who’s trying to decide whether or not to buy his girlfriend a ring, as well as a fictional deodorant company called Alpha. The ad service intervenes – both tastefully and playfully – to suggest that if a man is about to propose to his girlfriend, he should probably smell pretty good while he’s doing it, so why not try Alpha?
It’s an incredibly innovative idea, but its success will depend on the execution. Much like water, marketing seeps into every single crack available to it, so the real question is whether voice ads will be useful or incredibly annoying. Nuance made sure to inform us that voice ads won’t interrupt our mobile games or phone calls to try and sell us anything, but Voice Ads do run the risk of becoming the pop-up ad of the 21st century. Additionally, Voice Ads will use location and mobility to signal a user that it wants to speak to him or her, and given the number of people who feel quite reasonably uneasy when their advertisers know them better than their close family, there’s even a “Big Brother” problem that might arise if the ads are too successful. Imagine, for example, driving by a movie theatre and having your phone suggest a particular film, and that film happens to be the one you yourself would have picked out. It’s useful, it’s innovative, but it can also be really, really creepy.