JetBlue Voice-Activated Ad Teaches People To Speak ‘Pigeon’

jetblue-pigeonJetBlue is taking a stab at voice-activated mobile ads with new rich media units that will launch next week. Through the mobile ad network Opera Mediaworks, JetBlue will serve a banner ad to customers with the icon of a microphone and the message, “Click here to learn how to speak pigeon.”

When the user clicks on the ad, it will expand and a recording will instruct users to repeat words on the screen, such as “coo, coo, coo!” The user can continue playing or hit the “Learn More” button and be taken to the JetBlue Central Perch landing page which contains more features, such as sending messages through digital carrier pigeons.

The voice-activated ad is part of JetBlue’s “Air on the Side of Humanity” campaign, which launched through print ads and TV commercials in Boston last week. The purpose of the campaign is to reach customers on “an emotional level,” explained Elizabeth Eelman, advertising manager at JetBlue. “Any airlines can compete on rational benefits like extra legroom, more snacks, but only JetBlue can offer the JetBlue experience,” she said. “We’re using pigeons as a metaphor for frequent flyers and we chose to teach ‘pigeon’ because we’re a brand that likes to engage with our customers.”

Instead of pushing customers to buy plane tickets, JetBlue hopes people will “watch the ads, play with the pigeons and remember us when they want to book tickets,” Eelman added.

Using geotargeted and demographic information, JetBlue will aim its voice ad at Boston consumers, ages 25-54 with a household income of $75,000. It will also target the ad based on a custom list of high index sites including sports, news, travel and entertainment mobile properties through Mobile Theory, a division of Opera Mediaworks.

The voice ad units are powered by technology from Nuance Communications, which uses Opera Mediaworks’ AdMarvel SDK to enable advertisers to interact with their customer through voice. Advertisers use pre-recorded scripts to “talk” to consumers and direct them toward calls to action such as “email me this deal” or “share on Facebook.”

For now, voice ads are a novelty, acknowledged Jade Watts, VP and group digital media director at Mullen, a Boston-based ad agency that helped JetBlue design its voice-activated ads.  “But now that we have Siri and Google’s smartphones, I think over time we’ll see more ads like these as people catch on to having a conversation with their phone,” Watts said.

Voice ads are a “natural step to how you can use the technology of smartphones and tablets,” maintained Opera Mediaworks CEO Mahi de Silva. “Voice ads are an opportunity to also use video, mobile and location-based information in innovative ways,” Silva said. “We’re excited about voice and we have a large number of campaigns that will be using this technology in Q4 this year.”

As for the voice ad user analytics, Opera Mediaworks provides reports that are similar to the company’s reports for its other ad units. The analytics include data on the type of devices the ads appear in, audience demographics and engagement levels, such as the amount of time that people spent on the ad.

JetBlue will be keeping a close watch on customers’ responses to the voice ad, according to Eelman. “We never do something just because it’s new and cool,” she maintained. “Innovation has a cost and so evaluation is key…for us the big pay-off will be high customer engagement.”

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