When we talk about what voice assistants and smart speakers mean for music, we tend to focus on interactions with the music itself: people asking Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri to play certain tracks and artists, or other kinds of requests eliciting personalised streams of music. We don’t talk so much about how those music fans might interact with advertisements, and what that might mean for the ad-supported side of the music-streaming world.

Perhaps it’s time to. Pandora has signed a deal to test ‘interactive voice advertising’ with a company called Instreamatic. It has been developing technology to get people responding to ads by talking. “For example, a listener is delivered an ad with a verbal call-to-action to learn about new features of a new smartphone. The listener can respond to that ad simply by speaking aloud – either affirmatively to get more information or negatively to skip the ad,” being the example given in its announcement of the Pandora partnership.

Pandora will be testing the tech later this year, although further specifics haven’t yet been announced – there is the mention of listening contexts like cooking and working out: “advertisers will have the opportunity to engage audiences during moments where they were previously unable to respond”. For its part, Pandora’s VP of product management Eric Picard predicted that “voice will change the very nature of the way consumers interact with brands on Pandora”. If the tests go well, anyway.

Could this be a big deal for Pandora, Spotify and other music-streaming services with ad-supported tiers? Instreamatic has been making its case already: claiming in March that when a Russian online-radio station used its tech for voice-enabled campaigns “while representing only 1% of the impressions these ads brought in 10% of total revenue within the digital audio segment for the given month”.

One question we have concerns how (or even if) these kinds of campaigns will work within the voice-assistant / smart-speaker platforms owned and operated by Amazon, Google and Apple – not to mention what plans the first two of those might have for blending voice interactivity, music and advertising on their platforms (and what control they may seek to have over other streaming services experimenting with this kind of technology).

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