Pandora to start testing A.I.-powered interactive voice ads

Talking to ads may not seem like the ideal way to spend your time when you’re trying to relax to some tunes, but Pandora may soon have you doing just that.

The music streaming service is planning to test interactive ads that are designed to encourage responses from listeners. So, for example, an ad describing a new smartphone could ask the listener if they want to learn more about it, or which particular feature sounds the most interesting. The listener can respond accordingly, or simply utter that they’re not interested in any of it and can they please listen to the next track.

Pandora has teamed up with voice-enabled audio ad platform Instreamatic to make it happen, with the idea coming at a time when people are becoming increasingly comfortable with barking instructions and queries at their gadgets.

“Voice interactivity has already changed the way consumers interact with brands on smart speakers, and we believe voice will change the very nature of the way consumers interact with brands on Pandora,” Eric Picard, Pandora’s vice president of product management, said in a release.

Instreamatic’s system aims to tackle the so-called “click challenge” faced by audio advertisers when it comes to measuring and attributing the impact of their ad campaigns. Whereas visual digital ads on web, mobile, and video interfaces are more easily clicked because the viewer is looking at the display at the time, audio ads have no obvious click option.

Keen to offer brands on its service a better way to judge the effectiveness of their campaigns, Pandora believes that interactive ads offer a valuable solution with their potential to prompt consumers to respond to offers through voice.

“One of Instreamatic’s capabilities is voice artificial intelligence (A.I.) that harnesses natural language understanding, enabling customer conversations to go far beyond ‘yes’ or ‘no’ interactions,” Instreamatic said, adding that its A.I. functionality “is also designed to study, interpret, and understand user intent, and continuously refines this understanding through deep learning mechanisms.”

We can certainly see how advertisers might be interested in the technology as it can provide better feedback on the state of its campaigns and has the power to tailor content to gently nudge a listener toward opening their wallet. For listeners, we’re not so sure. If they’re at the gym or jogging in the park with their phone strapped to their arm, maybe a catchy ad could prompt an occasional interaction, but do you really want to be distracted from your workout and start chatting to your handset when you’re out of breath?

Ads come with the free version of Pandora’s music streaming service, while ad-free Pandora Premium costs $10 a month, which also includes on-demand streaming. For $5 a month, Premium Plus also clears the service of ads but doesn’t offer on-demand streaming.

If you’re interested in music streaming but are yet to dip your toe in, or if you’re considering switching services, Digital Trends recently took a look at how Pandora and Spotify stack up against each other.

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