Alexa sends Spotify listeners Nars samples

Spotify teamed up with cosmetics brand Nars and Dentsu Aegis Network agencies The Story Lab and Vizeum on a voice-activated ad campaign.

The test is a response to the changes in how people shopped for beauty products during the coronavirus pandemic, and it enables shoppers in the U.K. to get blush, lipstick or mascara samples delivered straight to their doors by interacting with a smart speaker.

Nars enlisted the help of voice-activated sampling company Send Me a Sample to enable Spotify listeners to request samples via Alexa or Google Assistant, while The Story Lab and Nars worked with Spotify to deliver ads specifically via smart speakers, encouraging listeners to say, “Ask Send Me a Sample for Nars.”

The campaign started this week and will run for eight weeks.


Spotify U.K. head of sales Rakesh Patel said in a statement, “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Nars and The Story Lab to deliver this innovative voice-activated ad campaign. At Spotify, we know there is huge potential within audio for advertisers, and it’s fantastic that Nars is utilizing the Spotify platform in a new way to get its products into the hands of our shared audiences. We see voice as a huge growth area within the industry, and we’re excited to be able to deliver screen-less advertising solutions for brands.”

The Story Labs senior partnership manager Hannah Scott added, “During the current climate, we have had to adapt our way of engaging with our audience. Delivering samples directly to consumers’ doors is a great workaround and something we hope can add a bit of delight during these times, as the user has a blush, lipstick or mascara sample to choose from. Given that people in lockdown are tuning into their smart speakers more than ever, collaborating with Spotify was the perfect fit.”

Why it’s hot: As smart-speaker usage increases and advertisers continue to pivot to direct-response options during the pandemic, the benefit in interactive audio ads is worth exploring. With most users spending more time than ever at home, smart speakers have seen increased usage. While voice-activated campaigns are not new, the success of this and others like it could give advertisers another performance-driven ad option.
This partnership highlights one important difference between advertising on smart speakers versus advertising on other digital audio platforms — the opportunity to interact with an ad. Opportunities for measurable engagement with interactive audio ads like this may help Spotify and other music streaming companies capitalize on the trend of marketers shifting spend to more performance-driven formats as a result of the broader economic downturn.

Sources: Adweek, eMarketer email briefing

Pandora and the Democratization of Data Analytics

Pandora announced that it will release its new Podcast Analytics feature today, providing podcast hosts with audience information including: where they live, how long they listen, and how they engage with content.

In doing so Pandora is joining competitors Apple and Spotify in providing analytics dashboards to its content producers in a bid to keep them using the platform and help keep listeners engaged.

Why it’s hot: 

Until recently only professional content producers had data into how their content was being purchased, used, and by who–e.g they needed a marketing team to do research. This could impact creative decisions as they chased trends and customers. Now, customer data can continually impact the creative process for non-professional creators. By providing clear KPIs, these tools could shift the type of content that is made.

Podcasts: The New Wild West

The IAB expects podcast advertising to exceed $500 million in 2019, which represents growth of about 65% in just two years. It’s a fast growing medium with limited standardization where only a small handful of categories have had ongoing success.

Part of podcasts’ allure (to brands) is the quality of its core demographics, which skew ages 25 to 40 with higher income levels and education. This is often an audience that’s tough to reach and they’re not typically watching a lot of TV.

The other allure is credibility. Most listeners are highly engaged when tuned into a podcast and usually don’t mind hearing ads. Ads tend to be kept to a minimum and are relevant to the program’s content, often via host-read ads. Trust and brand recall for podcast ads is also high when compared with other ad formats.

Based on data from nearly 50 custom studies Nielsen has conducted over the last 18 months, podcast advertising has demonstrated that it can move the needle on many important key metrics like awareness, ad recall, affinity, recommendation and purchase intent.

US Podcast Penetration

Podcast Ad Effectiveness

Why Its Hot?

The podcast advertising market in the US is poised for strong continued growth in listenership and ad dollars, but without meaningfully addressing current friction points, it might remain a niche advertising vehicle primarily suited to direct-response advertisers in the near term.

The ability for sellers and buyers to talk the same language is holding back the value proposition for brands more than anything else. There is a question of scale and fragmentation still – with only a few programs reaching the masses and many more reaching only smaller, niche audiences at far less frequent intervals than other media.

Newspapers existed before the Audit Bureau of Circulation, Radio existed before Arbitron, TV existed before Nielsen and the internet existed well before the IAB and comScore.  Podcasts are still living in this dawn of pre-standardization and governance, and how downloads and audience size is measured from one show or network to another is varied, making it harder for larger brands to execute – and measure – any meaningful effort.  Anyone want to start up an independent 3rd-party measurement company?


Pop music’s new producer? Streaming platforms…

Hit-making songwriters and producers are tailoring tracks to fit a musical landscape dominated by streaming.“In sessions, people have genuinely been saying, ‘Oh, we need to make something that sounds like Spotify,’” says Emily Warren, a singer-songwriter behind hits including Charli XCX’s “Boys” and the Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down.” According to the artists, songwriters, producers, and executives interviewed for this piece, no aspect of a song, from production to vocal performance, is unaffected by the regime change.


Throughout the history of recorded music, formats have helped shape what we hear. For examplesur ideas about how long a single should be date back to what could fit on a 45 RPM 7″ vinyl record. But the unprecedented wealth of data that streaming services use to curate their increasingly influential playlists gives the industry real-time feedback on what’s working, leading to rigidly defined and formulaic music.

For example, in order for a stream to count toward chart tallies and, reportedly, for royalty payouts, a given song must be played for at least 30 seconds. That’s why, while how a song starts has always been important in pop, with streaming it’s more crucial than ever. Another element tying the streaming era’s music together is the way we listen to it: The phones and laptop speakers we often use can have a direct impact on the music that sounds best through them.

Read more here: Uncovering How Streaming Is Changing the Sound of Pop

Why It’s Hot
How technology advancements are shaping behaviors and expectations is always fascinating. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction!

Let Me Hear Your Tat

Warning: This is either really cool or just a glorified QR code.

We’ve seen tattoos that light up, others that monitor your health and even some that unlock your smartphone. Now we can hear tattoos!

The designs can be made up of any recorded sounds – whether noises, spoken words, music or a combination of these elements – which can they be tattooed onto your skin. They have already received thousands of messages, the majority of inquiries have been about preserving the memory of people who have passed on.

How it works:

  1. Person uploads or records audio (up to 1 min) they want linked to their tattoo onto the Soundwave app or website.
  2. Soundwave creates a unique soundwave template for your tune
  3. Person goes to (licensed) tattoo artist who knows the limitations of altering the design, gets the tat.
  4. A photo of the tattoo is uploaded to the platform
  5. The platform processes the audio and tattoo and adds it to the app.
  6. Any time the user opens the app and points the camera at the tattoo, it will recognize the shape and play back the audio.


Why it’s hot: 

  1. Incorporates augmented reality with the human body.
  2. Offers an additional level of personalization to tattoos.

Why it may not be hot: 

  1. No real ground-breaking technology involved, may be more of a gimmick.
  2. How does it deal with copyright?

The Connected Car Shows Big Promise for Marketers

It is now believed the Connected Car Will Surpass All Other IoT Initiatives (and provide Four Key Opportunities for Advertisers).  In-Car Advertising will soon ascend to match TV and Mobile in time spent and provide marketers with a new trove of useful data points.

We’re hearing more and more about connected cars these days. They will be among the first internet of thing activations to achieve true scale. Cars will be talking to other cars before most other types of IoT applications have meaningful impact on our lives. This connected “network” will ultimately be very powerful — possibly saving lives while also providing better traffic information and ultimately better driver experiences. But what does this all mean to marketers? And how can they plan for this eventuality and take advantage of it?

Pandora on a Mini dashboard
Pandora on a Mini dashboard Credit: Mini USA

The connected car will present marketers with far-ranging opportunities. In the most obvious case, in-car advertising, now limited to radio and small-scale infotainment activations, will ascend to a medium on par with TV and mobile in terms of consumer’s time spent.

In a less-obvious case, connected cars will create an entirely new set of consumer data that will act as an enabling technology for marketers. Marketers have long craved data on real-world consumer behavior. The connected car will open insights on where consumers shop, travel and spend their time. As marketers better understand the connected car evolutionary path, they can make more informed decisions about how they leverage each discrete opportunity along the way. Here are four opportunities for marketers to explore with connected cars:

1. Audio. Radio owns the car today, but with its one-way broadcast structure it will be supplanted over time. The first steps are being taken by Pandora now, as it begins developing a programmatic targeting network for in-car ads. Over time, as more and varied applications migrate to the car dashboard, this exchange will grow more robust, with more ad impressions becoming available and migrating into an “auto exchange” for buyers to act against, based upon all of the typical targeting data, in addition to location data and other information.

2. Video. Visual ads are likely to be first inserted in the actual driving experience as drivers are given less and less to do in maneuvering their vehicle — and have more time to engage elsewhere. In the meantime, video will be a prime inventory format for pre- and post-drive and traffic-snarl periods. They require less-focused concentration, are entertaining and can deploy much more information.

For example, consider someone who gets into their car in the morning to drive to work. Starbucks has a new drink offer and may know that person has not been in-store for a couple of days. The video starts as the driver is getting ready to drive and provides an offer — and maybe even a direct “drive-to” for the location the consumer would normally choose (or, even better, press a key to order and have the coffee waiting upon pull-up). Video will be the most engaging way to get the consumer activated, and marketers will assuredly be able to reap the benefit.

3. Custom services marketing.For now, consumers use tools like Evernote to track a to-do list,Google Calendar to track time and Google Now to surface key actions based on email messages. All of that data will soon be converted into a data source for marketers to mine for targeting purposes. For example, a to-do list might include three specific shopping items; a marketer might use that data to deliver a targeted message showing they have all of those items in stock (i.e. at a nearby Walgreens) — and offer two of the items on a weekly special. This approach will be used by partners that can surf large quantities of data for “matches” to a marketer’s parameters, and in turn deliver a truly personalized targeted message.

4. Highly personalized location-based targeting.This is the ad type many small businesses will want to figure out so they can make messages most engaging. If a consumer is at location X and has a history of visiting certain types of restaurants, a local restaurant could target the consumer with an ad — perhaps in the form of a location bookmark or an actual calendar event with a coupon. While it may not drive immediate action, it could bring the consumer in over time.

Why it’s Hot:

The real-world location data from connected cars represents a new pillar of marketing insight that will help marketers effectively understand consumers. Who owns the data, how it will be protected and how it will be used are still issues to be resolved, but the data itself represents a sea-change in the consumer knowledge that will be available to marketers.

The connected car, the first large-scale IoT platform, offers great promise to marketers — and a whole new way to reach consumers — at a time when they were previously reachable only on a very limited basis, such as with out-of-home or radio ads. Smart marketers will want to consider the potential new media consumption implications — and opportunities — for consumers and drive hard to get their messages in front of them accordingly. In a rapidly emerging space, first movers will have a serious advantage.