If AI is the future, will brands be even more at Google’s mercy?

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 13 April 2017

Burger King's marketing stunt was a genius move that hijacked Google's Home voice services by using its ad to talk to the device and get it to read information about Burger King of its Wikipedia page.

It was the first example of a major brand using the device in this way and it was a clever creative hack and great use of the medium.

Google quickly halted Burger King’s campaign by reprogramming its Google Home device to ignore the ad.

Home AI devices are a nascent platform so brands playing in this space are running a risk. Some people saw Burger King's effort as intrusive and Disney, who was the first brand to appear on Google Home, copped flack for promoting Beauty and the Beast.

The digital giant reprogrammed its Google Home device to ignore the ad, which viewers criticised as being “intrusive”.

If artificially intelligent devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo\Alexa are touted as the future of marketing, will brands be even more at the mercy of these technology giants in the future if they control what is allowed?

We’ve seen publishing execs admit that Facebook and Google hold them to ransom and Google increasingly stamp out monetisation for YouTube content creators. A simple change of an algorithm can undo a brand's strategy and render it useless.

The power of the digital duopoly is undeniable and only increasing, especially with third player Amazon making its way Down Under.

In Burger King’s case, Google had the power to render its campaign obsolete. Yes, it was disruptive and designed more as a brand stunt than anything else, but was a smart experiment. It highlights the power Google has to control how companies potentially use the technology in the future.

The Whopper ad was only the second example of a marketer using Home in the last month, but it won’t be long until more brands are dabbling in this space, and when they do, will Google let the ads through? And how will it decide what's worthy content?

It’s hard to imagine what advertising will be like on voice controlled devices. If a user is looking to book an Uber, does another taxi player get a chance to put their message in front of the consumer in the form of a three-second voice ad? Will deals of the day be offered up? And are these types of ads more intrusive than a pop-up or display ad?

Like smartphones, the devices will command a very special place in a consumer’s hearts; a source of news, search queries, music and more. It will be extremely personalised, which means if commercial messaging makes its way onto the devices, it will have to be carefully done or risk consumer rejection.

That is, if it is let through by Google in the first place.

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