Well, the Amazon Echo had a good run as an ad-free platform – and all good things, as they say, must come to an end. The harbinger of the advertising apocalypse is a company called VoiceLabs and its plan is to tack on 6 to 15-second advertisements at the beginning and end of some Alexa skills.
The platform helps advertisers setup “Sponsored Messages” and, according to VoiceLabs, users have generally not minded the interruption. It’s VoiceLabs’ goal to make the advertisements brief and unobtrusive for most users, but also "lead a consumer into an experience or converse with the consumer as they exit."
Yep, conversational advertisements are now a thing apparently.
So far, however, only two noteworthy companies have signed on to participate in VoiceLabs’ tests: Wendy’s (an American fast-food chain) and ESPN.
So which apps can you expect to hear these ads on? So far Federated Media, XAPPmedia, TWiT.tv, Appbly and a few other developers have signed on board.
How’s this going to work?
Well, say you’re using one of the 327 sports skills on Amazon Echo or the Amazon Echo Dot. At the beginning of the skill, you might hear an ad that says “Welcome, thanks for listening and thanks to ESPN for sponsoring us.”
So far, not so bad, right?
Use the app a few more times and ESPN might inform you of a big sports event coming up before asking if you’d like to be reminded to watch it. (Though, from the sounds of it you’re welcome to politely turn down the invitation to tune in.)
Here’s the good news: there are some very strict limitations on which apps can use Sponsored Messages – they can only appear in streaming music, radio or flash briefing skills and they can't use Alexa's voice to say them.
What that means is the vast majority of the Echo's 13,000 available skills won’t be a target for new ads … well, for now, at least. While you wait for that to happen, there's always the Echo's rival, Google Home, to consider.