Are Interactive Ads the Future of Music Streaming? Pandora Launches Interactive Ads to Improve Measurability


Pandora unveils interactive ads and voice-search for songs

The music streaming platform, Pandora, yesterday introduced a beta version of voice-activated advertisements after initial testing last year. The company has rolled out the feature for a wider user-base and “asks” listeners whether they agree to hear additional brand content. The listeners can say “yes” to hear more ads.

While studies show that audio ads enjoy better recall compared to video ads, do they inspire listeners to act on it? That’s debatable; and exactly what Pandora setting out to ascertain with its interactive ads. Most listeners stream music when doing other activities like driving, studying or running. Naturally, with their hands occupied, listeners have no option but to listen to ads, not necessarily engaging with them. In a way, most listeners consider ads the price of enjoying music streaming services.

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However, for brands, ad completion rates do not mean much if they aren’t getting the message across. With its new feature, Pandora joins a small niche of streaming platforms that support interactive ads. And most importantly, enable brands to understand whether consumers are actually interacting with their content. Pandora has partnered with 13 companies including Acura, Doritos, Volvo, Xfinity, and T-Mobile to launch the feature.

To ramp up engagement for its new feature, Pandora has also opened up the previously premium feature, voice-led music search, for ad supported users. Which means free users who now search for a specific track with their voice will be invited to watch a video ad. If the user accepts, the ad will play, followed by the requested song. If the user declines, the original (no-on-demand) music content will continue to play.
Pandora’s interactive voice ads are built on Voice Mode, the company’s voice assistant which was launched exactly a year back. Voice Mode responds to natural language commands such as “hey Pandora”, “play next song”, “add this song to my workout playlist”, and more. Pandora users who consent to Voice Mode through their apps’ setting will automatically have access to interactive voice ads.

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What Does This Mean for Marketers?

The music streaming industry has been experimenting with interactive, two-way ads for some time now. With podcasts witnessing a resurgence in popularity and innovative audio formats coming to the fore, brands are keen on exploring more measurable advertising formats.

Earlier last year, streaming major, Spotify also tested conversational ads on its platform. Clearly, the aim for platforms is to create a strong competitive differentiator by offering brands a transparent and measurable ad format that substitutes aspects of typical screen-based ad inputs such as “clicks” and “taps” with audio commands.

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The move also adds an element of novelty to Pandora’s interface. While the company hasn’t made any claims about the end-user experience, the ability to skip ads with out having to use your hands is indeed great to have. Going forward it wouldn’t be surprising if Pandora is able to position its interactive ad serving capabilities as a more premium offering for brands and advertisers alike.