Innovation

Amazon Alexa could be getting 15-second sponsored ads with new VoiceLabs program

VoiceLabs has launched Sponsored Messages, a new program allowing brands to create advertisements that will be inserted in user conversations with Amazon Alexa.

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Image: CNET

On Thursday, voice analytics firm VoiceLabs launched a new program called Sponsored Messages, enabling brands to build six- to 15-second-long advertisements for Amazon Alexa. The company has been testing the ads for a few months, and is working with companies like ESPN and Wendy's, according to a press release.

Being that Alexa is an interactive experience, users will be able to ask questions about the advertised products, give feedback to the company behind the advertisement, or add the item to their shopping cart on Amazon. This allows the advertisers to learn more about potential customers than traditional mediums, the release said.

The ads will be clearly marked as an advertisement or sponsored content, the release said. The aim of the ads will be to provide relevant content, and to be brief.

SEE: Is advertising the price we'll pay for having AI everywhere?

"We are fortunate to have advertising partners who 'get it,'" said VoiceLabs' chief product officer Alex Linares in the release. "For example, we collaborated with Progressive and Wendy's to create Sponsored Messages that are both short, and also tell a brand story over the course of multiple user sessions."

The company also noted that it won't overload users with advertisements. According to the release, the messages will vary, and users might only hear an ad once every 15 interactions with a given skill. And the ads will only start once the user has interacted with the skill at least four times.

The Sponsored Messages program is a way for Alexa developers to make money on their skills, the release said, which they have struggled to do in the past. As noted in a CNET report, developers would be able to choose what advertiser they wanted to use in their skill. However, as CNET also reported, the program seems to exist outside the boundaries of some of the guidelines for Alexa skills, but there are some caveats it can take advantage of.

The program raises an interesting question about the ubiquity of advertising in modern, connected society. In March 2017, a Google Home user experienced an advertisement for the film Beauty and the Beast, creating concern about privacy issues.

The fact of the matter is that monetization does remain a challenge for the digital assistant market. It remains to be seen how big a role advertising will play in the space, but it could become one of the main revenue drivers for these services.

What do you think?

Would you still use an Amazon Alexa or Google Home if you had to listen to advertisements? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. VoiceLabs is enabling 6- to 15-second-long advertisements for Amazon Alexa through its new Sponsored Messages program.
  2. A press release said that the ads would be marked as sponsored content, and would be set up to only occur at certain times.
  3. The issue of ads in digital assistants raises privacy concerns, but it is one of the main ways companies and developers are pursuing monetization in the space.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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