Voice Assistants – The Next Big Opportunity For Digital Marketers

I distinctly remember when Apple first released Siri and everyone was enthralled with asking her silly questions. In 2011, most people thought the idea of voice assistants were a useless function, something you could kill the time with as opposed to a practical application. Now, seven years later, the capabilities and functions of voice assistants have grown to be a part of people’s everyday life, and their function and adaptability are projected to grow even more in the coming years.

Since the release of Siri, many companies have released their own voice assistant. Google released their voice technology in 2012, Microsoft released Cortana in 2013, and Amazon released Alexa and the Amazon Echo in 2014. In the proceeding years, these technology powerhouses have continued to perfect  their products – advancing both their capabilities and product lines to accommodate all possible voice assistant function. People have built voice technology in their homes – locking doors, turning on lights, controlling the television, stoves, refrigerators – at this point, you could nearly talk your way through your morning routine (which might have its positives and negatives as seen in this ad released by TRY). With all the recent additions and advancements in voice technology, many people are projecting what to expect in 2019.

1. Differentiating voices: One of the main reasons people enjoy voice assistants is because of the personalization level. Devices will continue to get better at differentiating different voices. In 2017, Google announced that their home devices could detect up to six different users. This allows for more personal responses to questions like “what does my calendar look like today?” or receive a more tailored news report. A few months ago, Amazon caught up with this trend and announced unique user profiles for the Alexa devices. This will be a key focus in development advances in the months to come for all voice assistant devices. 

2. Automotive Breakthroughs: In 2018 car models, voice assistant became a standard feature. Mercedes A-Class and Audi A8 are using a system developed by Nuance, called “Just Talk.” Just as with Siri or Alexa, the system is programmed to recognize casual conversation cues, so users don’t have to memorize a set of commands. Examples of its application include phrases like “It’s warm in here” which would activate the air conditioning or asking for navigation directions. This type of tech, or apps such as drivesafe.ly allow drivers to safely get more done on their commute to and from work, keeping their eyes off their phone and on the road. The less buttons that drivers have to push, the safer driving while using tech will be, which is why many automotive companies are turning their attention to voice assistants.

3. Search Ad Revenue Increase: Although voice advertising will always pose some challenges and discrepancy because there isn’t the visual confirmation as with traditional search advertising, the popularity of this ad form will grow in 2019 due to the popularity of voice search apps on mobile devices. The use of voice searches, which in turn creates opportunities for voice ads, comes from an improvement in voice assistants accurately capturing the conversation. As I mentioned previously, in 2011, when Siri was first released, it was rare that she accurately picked up what you were asking. Now, voice assistant companies are reaching for a 99% accuracy level. With these ambitions, people will get used to using voice assistants for more searches. The result, this channel is a wide open opportunity for advertisers so much so that Juniper predicts voice-based ad revenue could reach $19 billion by 2022. If this prediction reigns true, Google and Amazon will not hesitate to open their platforms to additional forms of paid digital advertising.

4. Incorporation of screens: As voice assistants products became more popular, companies had to differentiate themselves. Google released the Google Assistant which featured all the favorite Google Home voice assistant features, but also has a 7 inch screen. This allows user to engage with the assistant even more, providing more opportunities for advertisers. The addition of the screen is a trend that we will see more of in 2019 as it provides even more opportunities for brand marketers.

Nearly half (46%) of adults in the United States use voice assistant making them a normal part of everyday life. With stable and growing usage, the  opportunities for this channel is unquestionable. With its many adaptations and potential for marketing revenue, advertisers need to keep an eye on the future of voice technology to ensure they aren’t missing an opportunity to diversify their media mix.

Digital Advertising Lookback for 2017

What Happened in 2017?

Although your newsfeeds and inboxes have likely been inundated over the past few weeks with content and messages reflecting on the events from this past year, the digital marketing world really never pauses or slow downs. Since last January, global digital ad spend has increased 15%, surpassing TV ad spend for the first time ever. According to Statista, 2017 marked the first year in which mobile traffic composed more than half of all web traffic. It’s clear that the way that people consume content, interact with brands, and navigate the buyer’s journey is changing. Before you finish ramping up your marketing for the new year and embark on new digital ventures, we wanted to outline these major developments from 2017 to help you keep up with advancements being made today and anticipate transitions that advertisers will need to make tomorrow as we move into 2018.

Amazon Now Has Its Own DSP

Through the consolidation of many DSPs last year, we were left with one major surprise: Amazon Advertising Platform (AAP) exceeded Google’s DoubleClick Bid Manager (DBM) as the most used DSP. Despite remaining fairly below the radar, Amazon’s DSP is quickly gaining popularity because of its low agency fees, self-service option and unique commerce and purchase data. When ad buyers were asked for their preferred DSP, 23% answered Amazon. This tops the next choice, AppNexus, which falls at 19%. As the number of DSPs not owned by walled gardens, telcos, enterprise clouds or media companies decreases, differentiation becomes the key challenge.

Innovations in Transparency Hold Advertisers & Publishers More Accountable

Facebook updated their transparency policy to require political and retail-focused advertisers to reveal all ads they are running publicly in their feed. In October, Facebook announced, “Starting next month, people will be able to click ‘View Ads’ on a Page and view ads a Page is running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger — whether or not the person viewing is in the intended target audience for the ad.” All ads must be associated with a page during the ad creation. This is a huge shift towards leveling the playing field for advertisers as they will be able to view all other ads that are running on these networks and gain competitive insights to optimize their funnels. In the past, advertisers could run dark posts, which permitted advertisers to run as many ads as they wanted without ever appearing on the brand’s own feed. This means that your competition could run multiple target specific tailored ads and you would never see them. With Facebook’s new policy, regardless of demographics, advertisers will be able to see the ads that their competition are running.

Although this initiative stemmed from a need for greater democratic transparency, Facebook’s new initiative is helpful for all parties in the digital advertising sphere and they’re not the only ones advocating for more honest advertising practices. The IAB has taken major strides to keep publishers accountable for any counterfeit inventory served to advertisers through their ads.txt project. The Ads.txt buying method confirms that each webpage uploads a file to its root domain detailing which SSP (Sell Side Platform – a tool that manages the programmatic advertising on a publisher’s site) offers its inventory, its Placement ID and its relationship with that SSP. The publishers publicly indicate who is actually authorized to market their advertising space eliminating inventory fraud. In 2018 we’ll begin to see many DSPs offer only inventory tagged with an ads.txt ID to their brand partners.

Retail eCommerce Flourishes as Online & Offline Experiences Blend

2017 was an extremely busy year for retail eCommerce with a 4.9% increase in U.S. sales and a number of mergers and acquisitions. Amazon acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion and Walmart acquired a number of eCommerce brands like Bonobos and Moosejaw. Despite the closure of many physical retail spaces, brands with brick and mortar stores are leveraging the data they’re gathering online to improve the offline customer experience, even implementing AI and AR to better understand and communicate with the customers. Conversely, strictly eCommerce brands like Casper mattresses and Harry’s shaving are partnering with traditional retailers like Target to bring online products to consumers more accustomed to offline shopping.

Cord Cutting Becomes More Popular & Advertisers Work to Gain Viewability

TVs, gaming devices, smart set-top boxes, desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones that all stream Amazon Video, Youtube TV, Netflix, Hulu, and HBO can be blamed for the slow death of cable TV. According to eMarketer, 22.2 million Americans, an 33% increase from 2016, have officially cut the cord and no longer pay for traditional cable, satellite or telco services. It’s forecasted that by 2021, 30% of adults won’t have traditional pay TV.

As online companies observed the increase in the number of streamers and the profitability this area brings, they were quick to jump onboard. In August, Facebook launched its new video service, “Watch.” This platform offers both live and pre-recorded videos that Facebook users can upload content to, similar to YouTube. However, they also partnered with Major League Baseball, the NBA, Nasa, Time Inc., National Geographic and NASA who pay to add their content to the viewing options. Facebook is not the only newcomer as Snapchat, Disney, Philo and countless TV networks created both paid and unpaid streaming platforms.

With this change in viewing preference, advertisers are finding new ways to reach these viewers. Many of the streaming platforms require users to watch a 15-60 second spot before their content plays. An advantage to this is that these ads are 100% viewable – there is no way to skip the ad. If advertisers are able to create clear, creative video that captures the attention of the viewer and seems more like an additional piece of content, this new shift will increase lift and be a great addition to many brand’s media mix.

Artificial Intelligence Knocks on Everyone’s Front Door

In 2017, artificial intelligence (AI) branched out from the areas where we were used to seeing it, like inside of our cars, smartphones and aircrafts, and is quickly integrating itself into our homes. Over the holiday season, Amazon said they sold “millions” of their Alexa products, including the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus, Echo Show, Echo Connect, Echo Spot, Amazon Tap, Amazon Echo Look, and Amazon Fire TV stick. Google also saw success with their line of home products.

Luckily for these search and retail giants, consumers’ attitudes towards AI has shifted from fear that the technology would take their jobs to appreciation. 75% of Americans now believe that AI is here to help humans and that those who don’t embrace its benefits will be without a job in the future. As it becomes increasingly present in our lives and continues to collect rich voice data, in-home AI devices will soon lend just as much of a hand to digital advertisers as it does consumers. As 2018 moves forward, advertisers will begin to map out the uncharted territory that lies within the data accumulated from these devices.

Apple Says Goodbye to the Home Button

Apple decided to make their newest phone’s screen as large as possible and to make space for more phone, they eliminated the home button. A once standard feature on every iPhone, adjusting to the new process to unlock the smartphone via facial recognition will take time. Chief Design Officer, Jonathan Ive, spoke to the change and some of the initial opposition it faced in a recent interview with Time. Ive said that “[he] actually think[s] the path of holding onto features that have been effective, the path of holding onto those whatever the cost, is a path that leads to failure.”

The world’s most valuable brand and owner of approximately 15% of the global smartphone market share believes that its 2013 purchase of Israeli 3D sensing company, PrimeSense, powering this technology will continue to position Apple as a mobile leader. Providing greater security and ease for users when accessing their phones, the disappearance of the home button fulfills Steve Jobs wish to create a more simplified login. The iPhone X is Apple’s most personalized phone to date prompting users to say that it feels almost like the phone is magical, and projections to sell 265 million iPhones in 2018 support this sentiment.
Videos and Visuals Dominate

Four of the fastest growing social media platforms are Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr and the common denominator within all of these platforms is visual content. People are no longer satisfied with solely written content and in order to stay engaged, especially for consumers in the Millennial and Generation Z demographics, they are actively changing the way they view content. The average person gets distracted in about 8 seconds, so incorporating popular features such as photos, infographics, memes, illustrations and videos is essential. With 81% of people skimming the content they read online and image-related posts receiving a 650% higher engagement, it’s clear that captivating visual and video content is only going to become more important in 2018.

$10 Billion Spent on Data

According to a study from the IAB Data Center of Excellence and the Data & Marketing Association, US companies spent $10.05 billion on third-party audience data and $10.13 billion on solutions to support its activation in 2017. The $10.05 billion breaks down into $3.5 billion spent on email addresses, names, street addresses and other personally identifiable information, $2.9 billion on transactional data and $2 billion on digital identifiers. In regard to solution support, $4.3 billion was spent on supporting data integration, processing and hygiene, $4.2 billion spent on hosting and management solutions and $1.63 billion spent on analytics, modeling and segmentation solutions.

Snapchat Improves its Ad Tracking

Snapchat has had a very eventful year with many successes and challenges. Despite its devaluation after its IPO in March, the social platform has been very resilient. Snapchat boasts about 178 million daily users that spend an average of 30 minutes per day on the app and if you look at users under the age of 25 (about 60% of all users), this jumps to around 42 minutes of Snapchatting a day, making it more frequently used than its competitor. For brands looking to reach these users, there are a variety of ways to leverage the platform to promote their offerings, such as filters, geotags, and in-app ads that viewers see between viewing friends’ and publishers’ stories.

What’s most promising about Snapchat is its users’ disposition towards ads, with 50% receptive to or neutral to the ads they’re served. Brands are hoping to see positive results from their Snapchat campaigns and are also excited that they can now track them much more effectively. The recent release of the “Snap Pixel” allows advertisers to add a pixel to their ads and track campaign metrics and data analytics in real time. For the past three years since Snapchat began using advertising, it’s been making it easier for brands to automate campaigns, bid on ad space and measure the performance. With these advances and the platform’s sustained engagement of young millennials and Generation Z consumers, Snapchat is maintaining its position as a major player in digital advertising.


With an overwhelming amount of new players and shifting paradigms that have arisen in the digital ecosystem throughout 2017, there’s a lot to keep track of and a lot of opportunity waiting to be taken advantage of in 2018.  Having a strong digital partner to manage your brand’s digital ad buying is crucial and Digilant is ready to step in to help.  Reach out to us here to learn more about our digital media buying solutions and services and how to maximize your brand’s digital advertising potential in 2018.

3 Takeaways from FutureM For a Digital Marketer

Last week I attended FutureMMITX’s annual marketing conference in Boston that brings together advertising, technology, and design leaders to exchange ideas and share their latest innovations in the marketing space. Not only was this my first time at FutureM, but it was also the first large industry event that I’ve attended as a still rather green marketer. Although an initially overwhelming experience, with hundreds of innovators from around the globe participating in countless workshops, presentations, and networking sessions, there were many lessons I took with me to the office.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ve decided to highlight three key takeaways from FutureM based on presentations that were highly impactful to me.

1. Curate your content

During the presentation “The Art of Non-Obvious Thinking,” best-selling author and professor of Digital Marketing & Persuasive Storytelling at Georgetown University, Rohit Bhargava, stated, “Curation is what turns noise into meaning. Out of everything I heard throughout FutureM, these words stuck with me more than anything else. In fact, they’re the words that helped me filter down pages of notes into this blog.

Bhargava spoke about how today’s saturated digital ecosystem has lead the consumer to run towards simplicity, a trend he calls“the desperate detox” in his most recent book. We struggle to keep our heads above water while being inundated with new technology, media, and products. When it comes to your content, do your audience a favor and curate it like a museum. Declutter anything that stands in the path of the consumer’s journey by putting out clear and direct content that will make their decision to adopt your brand a no-brainer.

2. Make the user feel 

In the age of information and constant innovation, many people have started to think that logic and reason is king. However, Dipanjan Chatterjee, VP & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, reminded his audience that in order to convert users into loyal customers, brands need to make those users feel.  

From the very start of his speech, Chatterjee cites examples of Charles Darwin, the Star Trek starfleet, and the digital consumer, as all valuing emotion over rationality. We can measure the performance of the most nuanced segments and track their behavior with advanced KPI’s, but one thing that many often neglect to gauge is the emotional impact a campaign will have on the audience.
Today’s metric-focused marketers no longer have an excuse not to, because Forrester Research has designed a system of measurement that Chatterjee and his colleagues refer to as “Brand Energy.” In the below charts, emotion comes in as the most critical aspect to a brand’s identity and it’s no surprise given how the consumer-brand relationship has evolved.

It’s no longer solely a transactional relationship, but also conversational as we have the ability to strike up a dialogue with our favorite brands right at our fingertips. Marketers must engage with the consumer and use emotional intelligence to personalize and improve upon the customer experience. These interactions generate an immense amount of data, but only 0.5% of this data is put into action, a statistic that brings me to the final takeaway from the event.

3. Be Purposeful with your data

Many marketers today find themselves at a crossroads with information overload. On the one hand we’re told that it’s imperative to use data and predictive-models because implementing them is thought to be a surefire way to boost awareness and generate leads. However, there are others that warn us to not rely too heavily on algorithms and other forms of artificial intelligence that are thought to take from the human aspect of the consumer journey. What’s a digital marketer supposed to do with these conflicting pieces of advice?

The panel “With AI Comes Great Responsibility” believes that the approach to solving this dilemma is much simpler than the technology that their companies develop. Cofounder of Born AI, Max Fresen, challenges brands to counter this question with another important question: “What data are you feeding into AI in order to get meaningful insights?”

If you don’t have a clearly defined answer to this question, then you’re probably not properly optimizing the data sets you have to reach your customer. Artificial Intelligence is best used when machine-learning is combined with a talented team that knows how to effectively implement the technology. Programmatic partners like Digilant can do just that. By tapping into actionable data science to facilitate unique one-on-one relationships with users on a massive scale, new insights and audiences are uncovered for advertisers.

Similar to Bhargava’s point that marketers must curate content to effectively reach the user’s cluttered mind, data must also be properly curated and decluttered to be of any use to today’s marketer. To tie everything together – 1.) Curate your message, 2.) Craft it with a real, emotionally-driven user in mind, and 3.) Maximize the precision and reach of this message with the data-driven technology available to you.

Overall, my time at FutureM ‘17 was very enjoyable and memorable. I left with great insights and I can’t wait to see what next year brings.

Last Month in Digital Media News

The advertising industry and digital media buying specifically, requires attention to the latest trends. New ideas, new upcoming technologies and the changes in the behavior of the consumers make it necessary for forward thinking marketers to be attentive to all the industry news. This evolving industry, makes it very complicated to compete in equal conditions if you are not up to date on the digital environment.

For that reason, it is important to be updated on every industry sector. And the purchase of digital media is no exception.

For example, Google and Facebook together are two-thirds of all the investment that is made in advertising around the world. Something that years ago we could not even imagine. Buying digital media was complicated, and online advertising was only seen as a complement to traditional advertising, taking only a small percentage of marketing budgets.

What happened in the last month?

What has been said about the purchase of digital media in the last month? And how does advertising technology affect brands in general?

As eMarketer has reported, in 2017 advertising investment will grow in the United States to such an extent that it will outweigh the investment in television advertising.

And for that reason, all the data, news, statistics and information related to consumers and their environment are now the holy grail of advertisers. Consumer communication has become personalized and, logically, advertising too.

If you look only at Facebook you can see that the company with almost 2 billion users covers much more than what any brand advertiser could want. But what does the future hold? What news has appeared during the last month? And how will they affect the purchase of digital media?

1. Will YouTube Be A Payment Platform?

Perhaps it is better to pose the question in another way: Would you pay for contents that you can access for free? One of the most interesting debates on this subject was launched in Entrepreneur.

Turning a frees space into a paid space online is very difficult. And this is something that the publishing industry is familiar with. Publishers have had to start charging for subscriptions to be able to obtain revenue to keep up with the boom of the digital world and the problems that it created for traditional media.

YouTube, however, has long been thinking how to launch YouTube Red, the subscription version. And the video giant is clear on the value proposition: it allows all type of content consumption without advertising interruption. That is, it totally eliminates the ads and claims to provide exclusive content.

Will users be willing to invest in this type of content?

So far Ad Blockers have eliminated advertising from websites. And, for many users, that was enough. Will the YouTube Network be the solution for those who want to omit ads in their videos?

As Entrepreneur points out, “it is still too early to know”. In fact, it is anticipated that the most powerful feature of YouTube Red, which could make users change their minds, is yet to come.

In addition, The Independent shares that the date on which this content will be available to all countries will depend on the agreements that are closed with the record labels. Since they are mainly interested in having users invest some money in consuming video clips and music.

2. What’s Behind the Chatbot Surge?

This is a very hot subject since the future for the chatbots lie, precisely, in that someone must feed them, train them and give them life.

It is one of the issues that has been discussed in Adage lately. Chatbots are changing the way we communicate with brands and is exploding across the sites of businesses of all sizes and verticals.

In fact, as pointed out in a Gartner report, by 2020 more than 85% of customer-brand communications will be carried out without human intervention. Which means that chatbots, among others, will take control of this relationship.

And all with the aim of improving the consumer experience. This directly affects customer service. Apple has been using chatbots for some time and Facebook is working on it. However, this technology is still nascent, so it can not be said that it is 100% useful for all companies.

Out of context a Chatbot makes no sense

Technology has to improve in order to create bots that are consistent with each brand and its personality. And, therefore, it is necessary to write answers so that they can use them later.
The same goes for Siri, for example. If you try to hold a conversation or ask unusual questions, Siri will not know how to respond. This system is trained and programmed to respond to certain issues, so still thousands of issues are unresolved.

And this is where things change. To feed a Chatbot, it takes an expert who knows the personality of the brand very well, and therefore, he/she is capable to provide to to this system the appropriate answers to be able to continue evolving and to offer better experiences to the users.

This implies an absolute knowledge of the target audience. As a consequence, a new need already exists. The one to properly train every Chatbot. Yet, as the report points out, they will never replace interactions between humans.

3. From Big Data To Artificial Intelligence?

Does Big Data turn artificial intelligence into something that is not science fiction? HuffPost has dedicated an article that addresses the convergence of data management and AI and the potential value it will add to the digital media space as well as other industries.

Both Big Data and Artificial Intelligence already provide greater added value though their agility and the option of creating more productive business processes. However, to take advantage of these tools you need to know how to collect data and interpret it.

As HuffPost points out, companies and users are not yet ready for automated decision-making demands. Therefore, innovation will need to be focused on the convergence of data and artificial intelligence.

So, what are humans facing? Artificial Intelligence has gained ground in key sectors such as health, banking, advertising and financial services. But data, by itself, is not enough. And, as a consequence, programmatic marketers especially will need to apply BDI, Big Data Intelligence.

4. Trolls In Social Networks In The Face Of Terrorist Attacks

What role do social networks play in today’s society? It is more than proven that when it comes to selling digital advertising, these platforms are more than effective. They get to specific targets, you can create specific and eye-catching creatives, etc.

However, when networks fall into unwanted hands, they cause undesirable impacts. And this is precisely what has been addressed in The Guardian. Especially when terrorist attacks are involved.

The news speaks specifically of the victims and relatives of the victims of the London and Manchester attacks. And invite them to watch out for network trolls, especially on Twitter.

Social networks can play a positive and negative role in the face of a terrorist attack. But these trolls take advantage of the networks to “crush” and capture their victims, subjecting them to different abuses, such as accusing them of “trying to cash in” on what happened by talking to the media.

After the bombing of Manchester Arena, several doctors who worked there claimed that many victims had previously been controlled by networks.

5. Mobile And Buying Behaviors

If a few years ago the user was reluctance to buy via mobile, this situation has taken a turn, since smartphones are now the currency of users.

The Telegraph in the UK says that industry data points out that mobile phones have become an essential element in payment processes. Smart phones are playing an important role in online shopping. Especially during this last year. As a consequence, mobile penetration is even greater.
More and more users are using their smartphones to manage their lives. And, therefore, making purchases through this device is becoming routine, therefore, digital media and advertising must be fully optimized for mobile.

6. New Alliances Of Streaming Spaces To Reach Students

Another trend related to the purchase of digital media that directly affects programmatic and digital advertising was featured in Cnet.com. Did you know that Spotify and Hulu partnered to create a combo for college students? It offers the best of its services in streaming. Is this the new way to reach the youngest target audience?

Students who meet the requirements, can access services for only $ 4.99 per month for Spotify Premium and Hulu. Of course, eliminating advertising 100%.

The younger ones will be able to access whole seasons of exclusive Hulu programming and other series from prominent networks. Again, with the same value proposition: eliminate advertising.

In Summary

The digital panorama in the news that’s dominated in recent months leave something clear:

  • Mobile is the current and future device.
  • Social networks have a lot of power both inside and outside advertising, as they can impact the public if the message sender uses certain persuasive techniques.
  • But there is also a tendency to remove advertising in some digital spaces. And this is a problem for the programmatic media buying industry.

The solution? For now, is working to launch advertising that is much less intrusive, subtle, attractive and place them in the right place to the right person. Something that is simpler to do with a programmatic partner such as Digilant and its self-service tool that offers you the possibility of automating your digital decision making.

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