Car audio will be the big noise in connectivity

In-car features are typically accessed via touch screens, knobs and buttons. Ford is among the automakers that have added audio to the mix but it’s not as if consumers can perform most actions just by saying them. Consequently, drivers are occasionally forced to take their eyes off the road.

Cary Tilds, chief innovation officer of GroupM, the media investment management arm of WPP, is eager for change that will benefit both consumers and advertisers. She said that interactive audio is currently undefined for mobile, let alone automobiles. “We have an at scale user experience using voice with this mobile device,” said Tilds. “But the marketplace developed around interactive audio experiences [is] at 1%.”

Tilds expects that to change in the coming year as new technologies and experiences are introduced to the marketplace. She said the success of Amazon’s voice-enabled device, Echo, shows that consumers “will be willing and open to use voice more [often] to engage with content in vehicle”. Said Tilds: “We’re already advertising in the car. We do it in the phone today. The problem is, it’s a highly visual, if not almost 100% visual experience. We need to evolve that to much more of a balance of audio experiences – less distracting than just a fully visual experience.”

The transition won’t happen overnight. Tilds estimates that voice-enabled features will need to be at least 90% reliable in order for drivers to regularly communicate with their vehicles. “Problem is, they can’t just speak to it right now because there’s nothing to see,” Tilds added. “The feature-rich content they’re looking for isn’t programmed to receive what they want to say.”

Outside assistance

Tilds expects the auto industry to enjoy “spillover” from both smartphones and virtual reality. She explained: “I think all of these things are now converging in a way that’s retraining the consumer to keep their mind open, to understand and engage with technology, to be flexible and playful with technology, to make it their own and personalise.” That, she said, is the challenge for the automotive industry. If automakers can understand how all of these technologies are being used, they’ll know which tech makes sense for next-gen cars. “I do think VR will have an impact on automotive from a consumer behaviour perspective,” said Tilds.

The future of in-car advertising

Voice-activated features could be safer and more convenient for drivers but GroupM believes that audio will become an essential tool for advertisers. “If I’m driving down the road and I hear an audio ad that comes over one of the apps that I’m engaging with in the car, and the ad says something like: ‘Dream about a vacation with Marriott Hotels’,” said Tilds. She used Ford in her example and noted that GroupM can determine the car brand because of its delivery system.

“We can then say, ‘Use the appropriate instructions’ in that ad – we can instruct that consumer to whatever technology Ford uses – ‘push here’ and [the advertiser] respond with more information later on. It’ll mark the moment that you heard this inspiring ad and then you’ll go on your way. You never look at a device.”

GroupM could also use time and geography to add context to audio ads. “We know what time it is,” said Tilds. “We also know the geography of where you are and maybe we know that you have a Subway loyalty card. [The ad] says, ‘Oh by the way, it’s almost lunch time and there’s a Subway three miles away. Do you want to navigate to that and get some lunch?’ and you hit the button again. It knows which vehicle you’re in and you actually say, ‘Yes, directions,’ or you might say, ‘Directions’ and it will actually give you a different direction route to go get your Subway.”

Not all ads will require immediate action, however. Some could be designed to remind consumers to take action later. Tilds provided an example: “If there’s a new movie coming out with one of our movie/theatrical clients and you really wanna see it, instead of going down and writing it, [the ad could] say, ‘Hey, do you want me to remind you to go buy those tickets and put this in your calendar for Friday?’ You push the button and say, ‘Yes, remind me,’ or, ‘Buy tickets.’”

Removing the middle-man

In addition to audio innovations, Tilds said that she thinks automobiles could become an effective mobile payment device. “We could absolutely see a future where, if you feel that your car is secure and you want to buy fast food [or] gas, why would you want to take the card out?” Tilds questioned. “Right now your phone is a secure way to pay. I do it all the time with Starbucks, so we see a future where that’s the buyable moment. We’re shifting to shoppable moments and buyable moments. Both are relevant, where you might almost pay or you actually pay.”

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