Amazon Partnering with P&G, Clorox, Others: Alexa, turn off the ads! (please)

Trendspotting: Amazon Echo Dot dominates voice-activated digital assistant market
Amazon Echo Dot is the lowest cost smart speaker available from a major tech company.

It was only a matter of time. And it appears the time is near.

Reports today (CNBC: Amazon has big plans for Alexa ads in 2018; it’s discussing options with P&G, Clorox and others) indicate Amazon is in talks with consumer goods companies like P&G and Clorox in a bid to win advertising business for its line of Alexa-based voice assistants.

The integration of ads into the Alexa platform could be somewhat creepier in terms of privacy, however.

Considering Echo speakers, which use Alexa technology to accept human voice commands to perform various tasks in the home, are yet another media channel — albeit, a new one — such as online/digital, TV, and radio then it makes perfect sense that advertising would eventually make its way onto the emerging, mega-platform.

And mega it is. Amazon has said the Echo line of speakers are its best selling products of all time. Coming from Amazon, that really means something.

With that strong footprint across households in the U.S. and and the world (Canada, for instance, was recently Echo speaker-enabled) the opportunity for ad sales seems astonishing in scale.

Per CNBC:

“Voice and artificial intelligence represent a new frontier for consumer giants, who are adjusting to non-visual formats. Consumer brands are expert at promoting their products in stores by manipulating packaging and shelving, and they’re effective with commercials and traditional web ads, where they have screen space to showcase their products. “

Given what Amazon has done with its Fire tablets and older Android phones, we could expect to see ad-based and ad-free versions of future Echo products.

Currently, for example, you can pay as little as $49.99 for a Fire 7 tablet “With Special Offers.” To get rid of the ads you need to pay about 30% more or $64.99. A similar pricing model could be used for Echo speakers: $49.99 for an Echo Dot with ads, and $64.99 without. And so on.

The integration of ads into the Alexa platform could be somewhat creepier in terms of privacy, however.

Imagine, you ask your Echo Dot for advice on how to clean clothes, or how to keep a dishwasher disinfected. Alexa would likely respond with some helpful ideas and maybe even offer to send you a link with more information. Then, one future scenario would be that it would ask you:

  • Would you like to learn more about Clorox Bleach?

It could go far deeper too.

Advertising deals could morph into full-blown partnerships. So instead of just an ad — disguised as useful everyday information — you might get invited to try a sample… for free. Alexa: Would you like to try a sample of Tide detergent?

We live in a world with ever able technology to help us, at least in theory, live better lives. But we all wonder, at what cost?

Meanwhile, Amazon continues to amass bucketloads of information about our buying behaviors.

Amazon “wish lists” further the depth of that data by adding predictive information related to demand, or potential demand for products in particular, and product categories in general. That’s not necessarily something new, as Amazon.com has been using this information for years to tailor ads and products designed to appeal to us in the moment. What’s new is the voice element, and the fact that these Echo speakers are living, benignly, with us every day, observing and interacting and learning more and more about our habits insider our homes.

Big data. AI. Machine learning. Call it what you want, you just know the first thing Amazon will do with it is figure out how to print more money.

For now that means turning a voice assistant into a ad-enabled voice assistant that can make Redmond billions and billions and billions and billions…

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