Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Microsoft Cortana are just the beginning of the voice revolution. The discussion focuses on the advertising challenges and opportunities for screenless marketing as consumers increasingly interact by voice, even while doing - and looking at - something else.

Yesterday, September 27th FRSH CEO, Doug Robinson, sat on a panel for MediaPost’s “OMMA AI Forum.” The intent of this forum was to “explore the many human-like faces of AI as it works its way throughout the marketing chain.” In addition to our very own Doug Robinson, the panel included moderator Jordan Greene of MellaMedia, and panelists Russell Goldman (Digital Commerce Lead at Mindshare North America), Greg Hedges (VP of Emerging Experience at RAIN), and Sargi Mann (EVP, Digital Strategy - Investments at Havas Media Group).


Moderator: Doug, you guys have taken a really interesting approach to how you’re building out a very quiet analytics ecosystem over there, that do you think within a year we are going to have a very different conversation with you?


Doug: We have the most products of any company in the marketplace now, so we have 200 skills that are live on all three platforms in 15 categories. So we are looking at the data that we can gleam now to really understand how we can get to personalization and how we get to this context. If you look at the three different systems Cortana, Google, and Amazon, there is very little context baked into the Amazon Alexa because not only does it not have a mobile platform, but it doesn’t have the search capabilities you’re talking about. The idea of Amazon consistently flooding the market with the show, or the fashion thing, or the new Fire that can all be vehicles for me to engage, is really Amazon’s play to maintain the 70% market share and be the leader in the home. But, the longtime war will probably go over to Google because of the global and all the other elements in which the context is already built in. So when we think about personalization from an individual perspective, one of the reasons we want to have different products is to help our clients understand that not only do we get it, but also we can come up with the ideas, and then come up with the content that makes sense for those brands in that moment, that then resonates with the consumers wherever they are. We feel pretty good about our understanding of all three vehicles.


Moderator: We are talking about Google Home and Alexa on the same platform and it’s really not. Google is really far behind in this. In a year are we looking at them as equals and is Cortana even a relevant term to even say aloud any longer?


Doug: If I buy a Microsoft anything I have to engage with Cortana to launch the device (laptop, phone, etc.). When you look at Google, Google Assistant is already baked into a billion devices. So if I’m in India right now, I just got the internet, a smartphone, voice, and video. I’ve also got Microsoft on business, I’ve got Microsoft Office, I’ve got email. So if I’m a sales guy in my car I can say Cortana pull this up, Cortana pull that up. I think Cortana is going to be fairly relevant. I think right now she’s just kind of chilling but I would definitely say that she is not to be not looked at seriously.


Moderator: How do you move from novelty to necessity? How do you move from the first inning? What’s the big step to move to the second inning?


Doug: We are moving a lot faster than anyone thinks. The three or four of us completely understand that what we were thinking in May, versus what we were thinking in July, and what we are thinking now, are completely different regardless of the platform. The idea is that voice is not for ads, it’s really around utility. What none of us are thinking or talking about is the fact that voice is the first thing you learn. So this thing works for 2 year olds and it also works for 80 year olds. You have something that runs the continuum of humanity on one level, and then you start thinking about it around the conversational design and the fact that we have a zero UI opportunity here. When I go on a website, someone made that user experience for me and that’s how I’ve got to play. When I open my phone, that experience is made for me; but when we are talking about voice I expect that when I say something, what I expect is going to happen will happen. So when I create things with my voice, those are things I expect to be handled. Those are completely different pieces of the whole thing, which makes getting from the first inning to the second inning pretty easy, and I think we have already seen that happen this year. In the beginning of the year we looked at it as this 8 million virtual assistant thing, and we already know that by the end of this year we are going to be sitting at a billion. There’s a good chance that by the end of next year we will be sitting at 3 billion people that can access voice from a device somewhere at any point, at any time.


Audience Question: This question is for Doug. You have built hundreds of skills. Just curious if you could share any examples of how those skills are potentially showing some ROI for their clients or some sort or return?


Doug: We have a UNICEF skill with the idea of how to create a shared family experience in the living room using exercise. So we have created some action adventure games, and the family can kind of play and do jumping jacks, and then towards the end you are able to get a quotient for energy that has been created. Around that we then send food packets based on that energy. The idea is that we can create this family experience across the world so that we can save lives. Voice should be the glue to your multichannel strategy, so the ROI that you can glean, regardless of the vertical or the audience you are trying to reach, is totally there.


Audience Question: How do you feel the consumer will balance privacy fears with opening up to using voice search in all facets of life?


Doug: They’ve already gone there. Amazon is already in 15% of American homes so the privacy issue, although your dad and my dad don’t want that thing going on, the reality is if I’m 11- 30 I’m kind of okay with it, and if I’m 30-50 I’m probably okay with it if it’s adding value to my life. I don’t think any of us can say that moving forward, that’s a concern at all. In fact, it will probably end up adding value, it’s already saved a life.