advertising

A Million Ads: plumbed in

Building bridges. Photo by  Mark Basarab  on  Unsplash

Building bridges. Photo by Mark Basarab on Unsplash

Over the past few months we've been working hard with many of the largest players in the ad tech space and I'm delighted to announce that we now work with every major programmatic audio buying platform.

This is great news for brands, advertisers and their agencies as it means that you can now buy personalised dynamic audio from A Million Ads using your existing DSP.

We've always been available via the audio ad tech specialists and directly with some publishers but now we can add some of the biggest digital ad platforms in the world to that list. This coincides with digital audio advertising getting more attention from the traditional display or video ad tech vendors, who have been adding audio to their offerings. Wherever digital audio inventory is being traded, the creative of that ad can now be personal and dynamic.

Get in touch if you want to make your digital audio ads work harder and are interested in running a dynamic campaign using your existing buying platform.

AI Talking to me?

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I did my first Power of Sound presentation in 1998. Not using any visual cues was unnerving to begin with but practice and various memory training tricks helped make it fairly slick. By the time I’d delivered it maybe a dozen times I was offered 30 minutes in front of the marketing director for a big non-radio spending insurance brand. I was well rehearsed but on entering the boardroom at Capital he promptly announced something had come up and I now had just 5 minutes to convince him of the creative potential of sound and radio. Branding is hugely important in industries where product features are easily copied. Brands are defined by how we feel towards them - the emotional connection. Sound is how we receive most of the emotional information through our lives. I looked at my playlist and said I wanted to play just two audio clips, back to back, to prove that point:

It worked, he agreed. In under 5 minutes sound had managed to take him to the opposite poles of human emotion. Genuine human emotion delivered through the instrument we’ve evolved for that specific role, our voice. 

There is a lot of chat around voice, it’s the hot topic of the moment, particularly with the impressive Duplex demo in the Google I/O keynote earlier this week.
 

There are more details in their blog post here

Just after the UK launch of the Amazon Echo in the Autumn of 2016, I wrote a blog post titled "Why it’s good to talk, trust, think and feel", in which I explored the origins of human speech and the potential for synthetic voices where I linked to Wavenet, the work of DeepMind AI. They have been part of Google since 2014 and are undoubtedly behind many of the impressive aspects of Duplex. It’s funny as an audio creative I’ve always been drawn to natural, emotive vocal delivery,  trying to distill and replicate its impact in my own presentations and yet when it comes the production of ads we often remove the imperfect, the umms, arrhs and breathes, unless it’s dialogue of course. However why shouldn’t they remain in some announcement, single voice scenarios. If they need to be added to enable trust in the delivery of a synthetic voice then perhaps we should be more forgiving in other circumstances.

The other noteworthy recent development in this area was the synthetic recreation of JFK’s voice to deliver the speech he never gave in Dallas - 1963, the day he was assassinated. This was the work of Edinburgh based Text to Speech specialist, CereProc.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/jfk-video-hear-kennedys-lost-dallas-speech-in-his-own-voice-xtkvhm255

There are some really interesting applications for this technology with A Million Ads, starting with simply testing how dynamic scripts might sound within our Studio pre-production, right through to voicing huge lists of store locations, retargeted product catalogues or all known first names to entire campaigns. The key creative aspects to believable synthetic voices are the same we are dealing with when ensuring that dynamic campaigns using human voices sound indistinguishable from non-dynamic broadcast style ads. Particularly making sure dynamic edit points are compatible with the way we naturally merge sounds in the way we speak. However longer term the idea of being able to synthetically sample and recreate people’s voices could have a profound effect on voice talent. I used a CereProc synthetic voice, that we considered the most believable called Stuart, for this Nissan Leaf pitch demo highlighting that lack of emotional engagement. 

Of course synthetic voices currently lack genuine emotional delivery, but it would be naive not to consider their eventual improvement through artificial intelligence to the point where we can’t tell them apart from a human voice in certain circumstances. So we’re intrigued to experiment with synthetic voices to fully understand their capabilities as they develop. The future could involve applications for recreated synthetic voices of well known people who have consented for such use. We can licence a David Bowie song for an ad campaign, will we eventually be able to have it voiced dynamically by Sir John Hurt?

This advert is amazing! Conscious personalisation with Virgin Atlantic

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At A Million Ads we split our personalised creative approach into sub-conscious and conscious, with sub-conscious personalisation pricking your attention by coincidentally and perhaps subtly mentioning your nearest city, or what the weather is like for you right now. We've done plenty of campaigns that deploy these techniques to great effect.

Conscious personalisation, however, lets you as the listener know exactly what is going on by exposing what data we know about you.

So, imagine you are listening to your favourite audio service on a cloudy Saturday afternoon in Northampton ...

 
 

Working with Adam&Eve, PHD and OMGP we put together this Virgin Atlantic campaign for their Amazing January Sale and it is the first ad that deploys conscious personalisation.

We understand that conscious personalisation triggers a different part of your brain and sure enough, listeners of this ad have taken to Twitter to let us know what they think.

 
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Our dynamic creative approach allows advertisers to communicate more personally and intimately with listeners than ever before. For Virgin Atlantic we reference the weather, day of the week and your location.

 
A sample Virgin Atlantic script line displayed with the rules that power the audio

A sample Virgin Atlantic script line displayed with the rules that power the audio

 

The blue lines in the script each correspond to a dynamic data point, creating over 24,000 possible versions of the ad, so that listeners in locations such as Coventry, Southend-on-Sea, Exeter and Hull hear the version that is most relevant to them.

We know that when an ad is more relevant and aware of our context, it performs better. This was clearly demonstrated by some interesting reactions across Twitter, such as this comment from Paul O’Donnell:

 
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Whilst no government agency was involved in the production of this ad, as with any leap in technology, it's going to take some getting used to. Like Aaron says: 

 
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We are delighted with this campaign and it really proves that our personalisation technique can create the cut through that all advertisers dream of.

Some people, however, will never be happy:

 
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Cheeky.