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Conversational Interfaces like WhatsApp to Alexa: Why the Ad-Free Era is Over

The Guardian | Chris Stokel-Walker

It could be as simple as suggesting a product when you ask Alexa how to get rid of that stain on your shirt We’ve weaned ourselves off banner advertisements, with a fifth of us using ad blockers in our internet browsers, according to research firm eMarketer. So-called “native advertising” online, where advertising is presented in a similar way to editorial, has failed to take off. A US study last year from Stanford University found native advertising is no better at getting us to buy than standard online ads.

“Consumers are very good at filtering out messages,” explains Lisa Du-Lieu, a senior lecturer in marketing at Huddersfield University. “If you don’t get their attention within the first couple of seconds, it just bounces off them.”

For that reason, brands are shifting their attention to platforms and formats that they know we are engaged with. “Advertising goes where the eyeballs go,” says James Whatley, an independent advertising expert, formerly of global advertising agency Ogilvy.

However, a large part of the user appeal of some of these platforms, such as WhatsApp or Alexa, is that they are currently ad-free. So ads encroaching on hitherto virgin territory could raise some hackles. Nevertheless, you can expect ads in places you might not have expected before. Batten down the hatches and prepare yourself for the advertising onslaught.

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Illustration by James Melaugh.

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