Nova's voice-enabled advertising prompted by voice command popularity

Radio station player's voice-based audio advertising opens up a new in-car and radio engagement mechanism for brands, says The Works in response

Nova is claiming an industry-first with a new interactive audio commercial format aimed at making radio, podcast and smart device advertising more engaging. And at least one creative industry leader sees both its possibilities for marketers tactically as well as strategically.

The media company has created a Google Assistant Action adding activation and interaction capabilities to advertising audiences here while listening to radio or podcast commercials in their cars, at home or via mobile devices.

The first cab off the rank is a geo-targeted competition advertisement being broadcast during the group’s new Adelaide breakfast show on Nova 919, Ben & Liam, for tickets to Nova’s Red Room with Guy Sebastian on 14 February. Consumers with Google Assistant-enabled devices can now use voice commands to enter the competition.

The interactive ad offering comes 12 months after Nova took its first steps into voice-activated engagement, launching its own Amazon Alexa skill. Since then, the company said it has released new capabilities, including a ‘flash briefing’ skill providing Alexa customers with news headlines, and a Google Action in December providing access to podcasting and news briefs.

Nova chief digital officer, Fayad Tohme, described the ads as a significant evolution in digital audio marketing capabilities.

“For the first time, listeners will be able to interact directly with a smart advertisement, responding in real time to a call to action, requesting more information and even connecting directly with an advertiser,” he said. “The result is a more interactive, engaging experience for the listener and greater impact for the advertiser.”

Nova chief commercial officer, Peter Charlton, saw voice-driven interactivity as the important next step towards personalisation.

“Our priority has always been to evolve the listening experience in line with changes to the lives and habits of our audiences,” he said. “The ubiquity of voice command can’t be ignored, and neither can the clear change it represents to deepen our audience connection. This is an exciting creative and commercial opportunity for Nova and our partners.”

Alongside voice, Nova has been bolstering its digital portfolio, and launched Goat, a mobile-first millennial platform covering pop culture, news and entertainment, last year. It’s also struck a partnership with Acast in the commercial podcast player space.

Meanwhile, rival, Southern Cross Austereo, recently confirmed 1 million listens to its digital news on-demand services on smart speakers and apps, less than two years after launch. The service, which first debuted in metro markets, has since been rolled out to nine locations across Australia.

Capitalising on voice

According to the recent Voice of Us study by creative agency, The Works, in conjunction with the University of Technology Sydney, almost 3 million Australians have a smart speaker in their home or office, making Australians one of the fastest adopters of the technology on a per capita basis globally.

Commenting on the Nova’s latest voice-based initiative, The Works head of strategy, Douglas Nicol, said it’s a sign brands are finally catching up with consumers.

“The consumer has been using voice long before marketers have caught up with it,” he said, noting 69 per cent of the adult population were found to be using voice to interact with their devices. The two key demographics embracing voice are millennials and parents with young children, with many at the higher end of the income scale.

Yet marketers are not on top of this as much as they should be, Nicol told CMO. “All marketers should be making a substantial investment and understand where voice fits into the customer journey and where it fits into customer experience,” he said.

What’s more, voice demands the operational/customer service side of the business collaborates with the marketing communications side of the business - a must if we're to get to connected customer experiences as brands.

“Voice demands that if you are interacting with a brand you might want to check what your bill is, or you may want to find out what the latest promotion is. It pushes us to create a seamless experience for the first time across an organisation,” Nicol said.

The specific example of Nova using voice for radio advertising engagement, meanwhile, opens the door to new ways of engaging with both radio and in-car. Marketers have sometimes struggle to put radio in the path to purchase, or in the customer journey, Nicol continued.

“This particular opportunity is great because the battle to own the car and voice is a huge one. We spend a lot of time in our cars and it has been very hard to make radio an interactive medium and this would appear to be the start of it in Australia,” he said.  

“Often it gets relegated to purely awareness and I think now, through the use of voice in car, radio can play a much greater role at a number of key and micro moments in a consumer's day. It gives radio some interesting new opportunities. “While it was never down the bottom of the funnel, it was always more at the top of the funnel, now you can respond and interact with a brand, that’s quite interesting.”

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