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How Toosday: avoiding a voice fail

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

After setting out the case for why Universities should be using voice search in their recruitment work, Thread and Fable founder Rebecca Roberts is back, this time explaining how to avoid a dreaded voice fail.

*Read Rebecca’s other excellent guest blog about voice search*

So, whilst we’re getting organised and organising content so it could transfer well for voice-search, there will be opportunities for more experimental campaign activities linked to voice.

Amazon’s investment in the ‘Style Check’ on their Echo devices is just one of a multitude of examples of how voice-controlled devices will be integrating advertising opportunities over the coming year.

But… with new channels come new cataclysmic fails, so let’s all point and laugh and then rethink how we might transfer that ace idea into something that won’t make such a list!

What a Whopper

Burger King decided they’d tap into the voice searching buzz and designed a television ad that would speak to Google and directly pull up an audio description of what a Whopper was. The add used the phrase “Ok Google, what is the Whopper burger?” which, for those consumers with Google home and Amazon Echo’s, triggered a voice search that pulled up the wiki content of what a Whopper burger is.

For some reason, that will never be known to human kind, not one of the Burger King team had the foresight to think about how easily editable wiki content is. Cue a deluge of editing, which resulted in some bizarre ingredients that the burgers (according to Wikipedia) had in them including “made with 100% medium sized child” for example.

The ad lasted all of three hours before Google pulled rank, freezing the wiki page. Poor planning and a naïve trust in the boaty-McBoatfaced-public, a sage reminder about content control.


Google also removed audio about the movie Beauty and the Beast, which played out unprompted on Google Home – something they deny was an advertisement but one has to wonder what they were trying here.

“By the way, Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast opens today” the Google speaker said after listing the time, weather and travel update. Not really an essential “my day” feature but perhaps a warning of how they may look to monetise in future.


Amazon Alexa ordering cat food? Well, sort of. A viewer lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) saying an advert for the Echo Dot caused it to order cat food. It was overturned and Amazon said it was aware of the potential issue, “marks” ads so Alexa isn’t triggered and customers are required to confirm a purchase, and if not, an order is automatically cancelled.

Subtle Solutions?

The shopping functionality of Amazon Echo is a simple example of how brands can be suggested in a subtle way. For example if you ask your Alexa to add toothpaste to your shopping list it will respond asking whether you want it to look for a brand “for example Colgate”.

Considering that Amazon reported that it sold 5 billion products in 2017, you can imagine this strategy super-charging its ability to draw in advertising revenues pretty much the same way as Google does with ads and related search ranking. More detail on this here.