Would You Talk To An Ad On Your Smartphone?

Just looking at ads is bad enough, so who would want to talk to them? While many people would likely answer "no one," voice-recognition software maker Nuance says the opposite is true.

What Is A Voice Ad?

Wanting in on the booming mobile ad market, Nuance developed a way for people to chat with ads much as they do with Siri on the iPhone. Called Voice Ads, the technology works off the Internet connection of any iOS or Android mobile device.

Voice-recognition software has been around for years, but remains relatively immature as a form of communication between humans and computers. Founded in 1994, Nuance has been developing the technology longer than most other companies. Nuance's technology reportedly powers Apple's Siri, although neither company will confirm it.

Nuance's voice-ad technology is available today through the mobile ad frameworks of Jumptap,  Millennial Media and Opera Mediaworks. An ad framework is what developers embed into their mobile apps, so they can display advertising distributed by an ad network.

Advertisers using Nuance's software development kit could build two-way communications requiring only "Yes" and "No" answers - or ones with more complicated responses. An example of Voice Ads can be seen on YouTube.

The development process is not self-service, though. Ad developers have to work directly with Nuance to connect the advertising to the company's voice-recognition servers over the Internet. And because the technology is so new, it isn't supported in third-party rich-media ad creation tools, except Celtra.

Talking To Ads Could Make Sense

In many ways, Voice Ads make sense on a smartphone. Why fiddle with clicking on tiny links and trying to type on a 4-inch screen, when you can click once and start talking with a brand?

As people get comfortable talking to their smartphones through personal assistants like Siri, it's possible they could be enticed into starting a conversation through a product discount or promotional pricing. According to Nuance, advertisers see lots of potential.

"When you actually have a live conversation with an ad, it's sort of like you're creating more of a tight relationship with the brand itself, because you're having a discussion with it," said Peter Mahoney, chief marketing officer for Nuance. "The brand feels more responsive. It feels like something you can actually have a real live relationship with."

While the thought of having a "tight relationship" with an ad may sound absurd, there is big money at stake. Worldwide mobile advertising revenue is expected to hit $11.4 billion this year, reaching $24.5 billion by 2016, according to Gartner

The key is the quality of the experience. Nuance's technology will have to convince people they are actually having a meaningful, two-way conversation. Advertisers will have to give potential customers something in return for having that conversation with a brand.

Speech is continuing to evolve as a means of communication with computers. As people get used to talking to the machines they use in their everyday lives, the jump to talking to an ad may not seem so extreme.

Image courtesy of ShutterStock.