Deepashree Banerjee

War of the Assistants in ad-land

A young product group makes its presence felt through a pre-Diwali TVC burst. We take note of these ads - and the thumb rules therein.

More often than not, a new product category demands advertising that educates people about said product in the first place, more so in a category like 'voice assistants'. The product isn't simple to explain since it can be used to do a lot of different things. So, most advertising around it simply ends up showing its ease of use and various tasks it can be utilised for. Therefore, the challenge lies in whipping up (a storm..not really!) something that's really simple and direct, but still makes it entertaining.

The forthcoming generation of internet users, the world over, are opting for communication with images, video and voice activation. Currently Amazon's Alexa, Google Home, Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana are ruling the market in digital voice assistants. Amazon alone has sold over 20 million Alexa units so far.

When a new product segment appears in the market, there is a natural 'teething' period in which consumers have to learn to embrace this new touchpoint.

So, are our lives actually getting simpler and more exciting because of these devices? Given that we've already experienced other such tech innovations and have seen how they're so life-changing (but also potentially making us post-modern sloths) as well as being kind to their pockets.

Termed "the next billion" by the Wall Street Journal, voice search through digital assistants is usually placed in the heart of a consumer's home such as the kitchen or living room (at least that's how the ads showcase it). The trick is to ensure that the brand's use of the technology is as seamless and unobtrusive as possible.

So, should the brands/companies, therefore, approach the ad format with the belief that they are defining the today and tomorrow of consumers in many aspects; be it the lifestyle choices that the consumer makes or opening up a whole new world? Are the early stages of a new category the best time to explore and experiment with intent to innovate? We ask the experts for some insights:-

War of the Assistants in ad-land

Amit Shankar, national creative director, Publicis India

War of the Assistants in ad-land

Amit Shankar

Any new medium opens up new opportunities to connect with the consumer. It is the same story with Voice Assistants. As an advertising professional, it is a challenge and a blessing because we have an opportunity to set the benchmark and define a category.

The functionality of the product must get the spotlight. Developing innovative content that will make brands stand out and take the lead in the category should be the starting point of any conversation.

To say voice-based technology is a powerful way to 'talk' to consumers would be an understatement. It opens up new territories for brands. And brands who grab this opportunity with both hands will surely rule the roost. But the seed of any great idea was, is, and always will be - 'great stories'.

So, it shouldn't be just about a TVC or a print ad or the latest buzz/activation idea, but what problem we have identified and what we are solving. Privacy concerns might act as a roadblock, but it shouldn't stop brands from taking a big leap.

Praveen Sutar, ECD, Dentsu Webchutney

War of the Assistants in ad-land

Praveen Sutar

Voice assistants are surely going to be the next big thing! As advertisers, we play a major role in making this process both easy and rewarding for the consumer. The rule of thumb remains the same: at the centre of it all is the idea - an idea that allows the brand to talk to the consumer as fluidly and naturally as possible. Utility and convenience meet engagement, as brands can now make it easy for consumers to talk to them.

It requires a subtlety, wherein the ad prompt must come in at the right time with the right context, almost as if it were having a conversation with the consumer, without taking them completely out of their life. As a result, it allows us to portray real-life stories and incidents that will resonate with the consumer while being very easy and convenient for them to access. By seamlessly becoming a part of the consumer's life, brands can create some really different, impactful content in a dynamic manner.

Voice assistants give brands another touchpoint; so, instead of changing strategies completely, it's advisable for brands to adapt and mould their current strategies to include this new advertising touchpoint which works like a solution-provider for the consumer's ease.

Unlike text or visual ads, audio has the power to cut through the clutter. They work when traditional advertising doesn't by solving problems simply and seamlessly, without making the consumer work for it. A great example of this is the Flipkart Big Billion Sale, conceptualised and executed by Dentsu Webchutney Bangalore. Taking something familiar to the consumer - bargaining in a local market - it was integrated with the convenience of online shopping. Customers looking for the latest products at the best price could do so through conversations with the Flipkart Hagglebot on Google Assistant. So who was the enabler at the centre of it all? A voice platform!

With the technology constantly improving and consumers being increasingly interested in its possibilities, the future doesn't just seem bright but also audible.

Ashish Phatak, executive creative director, DDB Mudra Group

War of the Assistants in ad-land

Ashish Phatak

I believe companies are mindful that most potential consumers aren't extremely tech savvy. Most of the campaigns are almost product demos, but the challenge is to make the most engaging and entertaining product demo.

Another important thing with this category is breaking down the communication into pieces that highlight individual features. This also helps in having more interesting stories around that one single feature. A series of such executions, each highlighting a different feature, would help consumers to understand the product better.

Vikas Mehta, CEO, PointNine Lintas

War of the Assistants in ad-land

Vikas Mehta

As a creative professional, you start with a premise that new things have no rules, no baggage and very few proven experts. It allows you to look for white spaces and think of new ways to go about it.

Voice assistants are significant because they will forever change the way people search. For example, retail brands today talk about their store locations. When searches move from 'locate a store' to 'find a store near me', the entire content architecture will change.

Voice assistants are making human-machine interactions a lot more interactive. I feel this enhanced level of interaction will be a fertile ground for creativity opening up new opportunities for brands to engage with their audiences. The first wave will be about identifying new use-cases when searches shift from text to voice. Once people get comfortable talking to machines and machines talking back to them - the dialogue will create its own opportunities for telling better stories in more engaging ways. You would not only be able to immerse your audience into the stories but also allow them to co-author it with you - all in real time.

Voice is making every brand a conversational brand causing three fundamental shifts:

1. 'About us' will get replaced by 'Hi there';

2. Clicks, as a measure of efficacy, will be relooked to interactions (how many 'tell me more' requests); and

3. Usage will be as much or a more important a metric than the number of users.

I don't think there'd be one approach that works for all, but a few common principles. Here, the principles we are approaching it with will look outside the comfort zone and beyond popular wisdom. Try new things but fail-fast. Lots of A-B testing. Constantly optimise.

War of the Assistants in ad-land

Make Google do it ad

War of the Assistants in ad-land

Rock X Siri: Dominate the Day ft

Have news to share? Write to us