Sarah De Martin is UK managing director of Artefact.
Cannes is round the corner and you can almost smell the booze. But amid the general merriment, celebration and industry insight, there’s one part of the sector screaming to be noticed: Voice.
And, with Spike Jonze’s Welcome Home ad for Apple Homepod scooping a Lion in 2018 – and spearheading Apple’s ‘creative marketer of the year’ honour this year – it seems voice is slowly but surely being treated as more than just a gimmick. As such, my Top Tips are all examples of voice being marketed in a different way. An exciting way. A way that gives it a place at the top table alongside other channels.
Spark – Generation Voice is here
This is every parent’s nightmare: kids use voice assistants to get one over the grown-ups and answer tough questions, the stuff adults have been hiding from them. “If you pee in the pool, will the water really change colour?” “Does the internet turn off at seven every night?”
It’s a cheeky, fun ad from New Zealand-based telecoms agency Spark, and uses the naivety of kids to hammer home a vital point. Children are the key adopters of voice technology. It’s so intuitive to them – there’s no barrier to entry or preconceptions about whether it’s better or worse than it should be. And that “We need to talk” at the end had me howling.
Google – Home Alone Again
Playing on the nostalgia trend that refuses to die gracefully, Google enlisted child wonder/leader of pizza-themed Velvet Underground tribute band Macaulay Culkin, reprising his role as Home Alone’s Kevin. But this time, Kevin had Google Home there to save him the trouble of essentially terrorising a couple of burglars.
It’s on the opposite end of the scale to Spark – it’s an RSVP to eighties and nineties kids; and their parents too, who have fond memories of their kids actually behaving for an hour and a half as they watched Home Alone. It’s a light-hearted, friendly ad that expertly guides viewers into the utopian world of voice-enabled smart homes. Well, utopian as long as you’re not a burglar.
Amazon – Not Everything Makes the Cut
After the success of Alexa loses her voice last year, Amazon stuck to a similar formula: bumbling Amazon employees, clueless celebrities, hilarity ensues. It seems the tech giant’s found its feet here – these could well be their John Lewis-style Christmas wins.
The obvious highlight of Harrison Ford’s dog ordering a truck load of dog food aside, this ad is a playful look at the common fears surrounding voice technology and AI. That it’s going to take over the world, that it’ll cause worldwide blackouts and pandemonium. Of course, that’s ludicrous. But people do think it, because they’ve been misinformed. Voice technology has the potential to do so much for us, but at the moment, it’s still baby steps.
Winning a few Lions wouldn’t hurt, though.