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Alexa… Play Capital! Global’s new Ad hints at Smart-Speaker strategy.

This week UK radio station Capital FM launched their brand new TV ad campaign. Alongside the usual plethora of Pop Stars (that I’m sure you recognise and I don’t) was a more familiar face… Alexa, or at least an unbranded version of Alexa.

The ad (which you can see below) shows two typical target audience types accessing a world of “Hit Music” all via the simple phrase “Play Capital” but it reveals a lot than just another way to listen to “The UK’s Number One Hit Music Station”.

Having watched the promo, I think there are a few things to consider about its potential impact and implications: Not least why Shaun Mendez (I googled it) is playing Ice Hockey with a ball and not a puck?

Capital is a cool, young brand and it needs to appear in touch with the Zeitgeist. So, it makes perfect sense that they should feature a new cool technology in their advertisement. Its inclusion also hints at the growth of Smart Speakers. The younger generation has always been the “Early Adopters” when it comes to new technology and with Global featuring it so prominently in their campaign, is suggested that the technology is beginning to filter through to the mainstream now too.

Here, however, featuring the technology so prominently suggests a smart play by the radio giant.

For a while, now Global (the owners of the Capital brand) have been showing an interest in Smart Speaker technology; each of their radio brands (Heart, XFM, Classic, LBC) have their own dedicated Alexa Skills. They have also added messages informing listeners that they are available via Smart Speakers too their Top of Hour production (the flashy ident you hear at the beginning of an hour, often before a news bulletin) on all these brands radio feeds.

It would appear that there is a concerted effort to drive listeners to consume the Global product via Smart Speaker technology. The reasoning for this could be as simple as giving people yet another way to listen to their audio in addition to FM, DAB, OnLine, in App etc… It makes perfect sense that if you make it easier for a listener to find you then the more listeners you will find, right?

But Global have approached this problem in a different way to their radio rivals and it could bring big benefits.

I’ve not been completely convinced about the benefit of radio stations creating their own native players for Smart Speakers. They rarely offer any useful functionality beyond listening to the desired station, functionality that is available via native radio players Skills such as Tune In. Unlike a phone app they provide no visual prompt to return to that station and (until push notifications are added by Amazon) I believe they largely remain unused with user preferring to use a command such as ‘Alexa Play Smooth North West’ which accesses Tune In rather than ‘Alexa Open Smooth North West and Play’. The first is more conversational and has less friction, the keys to Voice First user experience. This is not to say there isn’t the capability to build in extra, valuable functionality. But at present, they tend to offer very little.

Global, however, appear to have created their own player to rival the likes of Tune-In. This means they can “own” commands such as “Play Capital” (or any other of their stations) and it will access that station via their Global Player. It’s a similar model to that adopted by the BBC with their (excellent) Smart-Speaker audio player.

It’s a nice idea but what advantages does this give Captial and Global?
Firstly, I’d speculate that this project would have been undertaken in partnership with Amazon themselves and no doubt also comes hand-in-hand with some advanced audience insights that aren’t available to the normal Amazon developer. All very handy when taking your product to an advertiser.

Secondly, Global are setting themselves up perfectly to take full advantage of the technology as it matures. By directing listeners to their own Smart-Speaker audio stream they also have the capability to programme targeted advertisements to those individuals in a way you can not on the traditional radio. Not only by using the Amazon insights on listeners mentioned above but also by creating “Alexa only” spots that allow listeners to directly access more information or special offers with a simple question, command or statement all without leaving Global Player.

Finally, and maybe most tellingly, Global are training their audience. Voice First has no visual prompts. You have no buttons and menus and so voice commands become almost instinctive. The technology is not at a stage yet where it can decipher what you need and present with you the best Skill/Action to complete that task without first hearing a very precise command (yet, although it is on the way) and Global have found a solution to that problem. They’re are putting the command you need to access their content front and centre of their messaging. Repeatedly telling the audience that to access more content via Smart Speakers you must say “Alexa Play Capital” – It’s the voice equivalent of adding a radio station to pre-set 1 in your car.

Not only are Global Radio making sure they are in every place that their audience may wish to listen to music but they are also ensuring, literally, that they are the name on everyone’s lips when it comes to UK radio on the Amazon Echo.

**You can read more about the potential of targeted ads in our blog about the work of “A Million Ads” here.

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