First, there was print media. It had stuff that we should know, things that informed us.
Then they started having ads in them, to support the printing and salary costs, since the cover price alone wasn’t enough to cover them.
At some point, much later, the ads started becoming more prominent than the news. Example: The Times of India, during a non-pandemic Diwali period.
We then had the radio. It used voice and music to inform us about many things. Brands found them to be a great medium to sell us things. So, we were forced to hear ads on the radio. At some point much later, we complain about how a normal FM station plays more ads than songs and the RJ’s pointless chatter combined!
Then, there was TV. It had shows and news and movies. Many of those were sponsored by brands and we saw their ads. The ads were called ‘breaks’ where the actual programming we sat in from the TV for took a break, and our attention was broken to make us see the kind people who have allowed those programs to exist.
And then we had the internet. It had a lot of websites, telling us a LOT of things. Many of these sites had to pay salaries and keep servers running. So they showed us ads in the form of banners. The banners started in a corner, small and ignorable. Then they got more colorful, more blinky and glitzy, but still possibly ignorable.
And then the advertisers got greedy. They started to show us ad that we had close, consciously, by clicking on a tiny X on the corner. If we do not close it, it’d continue to sell what it is trying to sell. Or these ads sneaked up from some corner and called our attention. We had to swat them like flies.
Then we invented ad blockers and the pesky ads situation got slightly better.
Now we have digital voice assistants. They give us the internet, in the form of voice via our asking. We ask… they respond.
And brands found that they could replicate the radio ads scenario with voice assistants too. So, if we ask it to play music or a podcast, brands figured that they could add a few ads in between. Our attention gets broken in between songs, or during a forced break between a podcast.
Then the advertisers thought, “Hey, this is not just like radio. This is interactive – 2-way communication. So, let us seek inspiration from those interactive banner ads and add interactivity to our audio ads!”.
Because… why not?
So now we have ads on Pandora that make you say something – a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, to continue an action.
There’s even self-awareness built into the interactive voice ads!
Thankfully, if we as nothing, the actual programming continues after waiting for us to say something for a brief period.
Apparently, Spotify is testing these interactive voice ads too, starting mid last year! And they helpfully add, “your phone’s microphone will only be active for the duration of the ad, and it will deactivate early if you say anything other than play now”.
What’s next? Ad blockers for digital voice assistants? That would be called a ‘premium subscription’, to begin with 🙂