Voice search topped the digital marketing agenda for 2017, and quite rightly so with the technology advancing at a rapid rate.

But while becoming mainstream is arguably several years away, digital marketers must act now to recognise the challenges and opportunities voice search presents for their advertising campaigns. This preparation is essential for brands hoping to steal a march on competitors failing to adapt to this new era where the screen becomes a minority, or for those establishing utility for voice-activated engagement with customers.

Talk the talk

Challenging businesses to adopt voice search and personal assistants one way or another, is a critical first step in understanding what it means to be a user. Without taking the time to utilise voice search and understand its benefits and pitfalls, advertisers won’t have the first-hand experience of their audiences and therefore will be unable to engage with them in a relevant and meaningful way.

Once voice search behaviour is native, those advertisers who have invested time in getting to know it, will be ahead of the curve in terms of the best ad formats to utilise, based on their own experiences and preferences.

These ‘early-movers’ will certainly gain the advantage of being quick and agile to offer voice search advertising solutions before their peers; ultimately allowing them to grow their initial market share while fast becoming a leader in the discipline. From a cost perspective too, less advertisers normally equals better value with more cost-effective share of voice opportunities.

Be prepared for change

While we anticipate those advertisers who are quick to the voice search marketing party will capitalise on their early adopter status, we envisage low competition will quickly disappear.

As we’ve seen with native ads, real-time bidding and even AdWords, multiple brands competing for one impression, seriously hikes up ad prices. And, maintaining trust, utility and relevance without coming across as intrusive or disruptive, could prove difficult in a world with fewer screens.

But this is as much a challenge for the platform as it is the advertiser. Advertisers are given the tools and rules – they just need to understand the rules of engagement, as we’ve learnt through recent public mistakes.

The infamous Google Home Beauty & The Beast ‘update’ could be viewed as being more damaging for Google than the film itself. Users were quick to assume the line ‘By the way, Disney’s live action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ opens today,’ was an unwanted ad from Google amongst their usual morning weather and calendar updates.

What could voice search advertising look like?

In terms of ad models, there’s likely to be a lot of testing as adoption grows, but they could include:

  • Sponsored search ads, such as a user asking for local restaurants activating paid responses from an advertiser, possibly offering a discount;
  • Pre-roll or ‘in stream’ formats, playing short audio ads when a user is consuming longer form content;
  • Sponsored content, as is already commonplace to support streamed music listening;
  • Utility-linked ads, which could prompt gift suggestions when a birthday is coming up, or launch a chat bot to help navigate a booking or shopping experience

Personalisation will be a key element in proving voice’s worth, meaning data will remain the fuel driving the explosion and will require individualised and contextualised engagement.

As we’re all shopping or thinking about products several times in a day, profiling and scoring intent will be critical. Direct response ads contribute value at the point of high intent – for instance if I want to hire a car in the next 20 minutes, an advert can guide me to an appropriate vendor, but if I’m simply researching my options for a trip many months from now, then information is all I need.

At Clicksco, we profile and score intent, so as not to waste ad impressions on browsers and low intent shoppers. This is just as important when advertising through voice.

Optimising for voice search, and exploiting the ad possibilities beyond search are key challenges, too. At the very least, marketers need to begin optimising for organic voice search. Organic listings won’t go away, but they could become harder to earn if ad models develop.

Other areas for exploration are AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants across text and voice, which will be significant tools for consumer engagement, from ads to customer service.

With predictions from Gartner that by 2018 30% of our interactions with technology will be through conversations as voice adoption grows, advertisers need to prepare for this next frontier in human-computer interaction carefully and consider how to get best their brand in front of the new generation of screen-less users.

Voice search won’t become mainstream overnight, but its existence on smartphones will drive it on, encouraging further voice-device integration and adoption, and with it, new marketing opportunities.

Now is the time for digital marketers to be creative, seriously build their data and intelligence assets, and serve the customer. If you get the right advert to the right customer, at the right time, the channel inevitably becomes less critical.

Read Clicksco’s latest white paper on voice search, here.

Pete Danks

Pete Danks


Pete Danks, chief marketing officer at global martech platform, Clicksco_Group