Spotify and Pandora to test voice-activated ads

Why tap on an ad when you can talk to it?
Why tap on an ad when you can talk to it?

Image: Chesnot/Getty Images

We’ve all been there: You hear an ad while streaming music on Spotify or Pandora and it’s just too much effort to look up the product later. 

Well, both music streaming services are looking into ways to change that with interactive voice ads. 

Spotify announced on Thursday that it would do limited tests of voice-activated ads in the United States. Right now it’s just advertising its own products, like original podcasts and branded playlists. The ads give users a moment to say “Play now” if they want to hear what is being advertised. If not, the ad will keep going like usual. 

The company initially hinted at the move in an earnings call this week, according to TechCrunch. So far it’s just happening with a limited amount of free users in the U.S., and they can opt out in the app’s settings menu.

This is just a month after Pandora announced it would try its own voice-activated ads — these would allow users to get more information about an advertised product — sometime in 2019.

This is what it might look like when you talk to one of Spotify or Pandora's new ads.

This is what it might look like when you talk to one of Spotify or Pandora’s new ads.

Image: Getty Images/Westend61

While this idea may seem a bit dystopian, it was probably inevitable after people started letting voice-controlled virtual assistants into their homes. There have been recent concerns about Google Assistant’s relationship with companies that advertise on Google, for example.

Advertisers might like it because it gives them firmer metrics to work with, including how many people actually interacted with their ads.  

Of course, both Spotify and Pandora offer paid subscriptions that remove ads entirely, so this is easy to avoid if you’re able to pony up the cash. Spotify just announced it has 100 million paid subscribers worldwide, so plenty of people will never get the chance to talk to ads. 

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