Spotify Is Bringing Voice-Controlled Ads to Our Engagement Hellscape

Photo: Joe Scarnici (Getty)

I think most of us can safely agree that there are few things consumers want to engage with less than ads. We certainly do not want ads that require us to actively speak to them. But the future is now, baby! And if this sounds like hell, now might be a good time to upgrade your free Spotify subscription.

The streaming platform is testing a new feature for voice-enabled ads for some subscribers, Ad Age reported Thursday. Under this new ad feature, a limited number of Spotify users who have their microphone enabled will be prompted by an ad to say a specific phrase that initiates the app to perform an action. According to TechCrunch, users will first be informed about a playlist they might be interested in and they’ll be given the option to say “play now.”

If a user does not respond or says something other than “play now,” the ad will carry on before returning to whatever they were listening to. Both after the prompt and in the event that a user says something other than the specific phrase, a user’s microphone will be turned off, the reports said.

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For now, these ads are limited to Spotify’s own playlists or podcasts, according to TechCrunch. But next up: Axe body spray. Later this month, Axe will offer its own curated playlist and you’ll have to opportunity to interrupt your vibes and jump over to listen to whatever Axe has decided is synergetic with its brand.

Of course, this also signals a chance for Spotify to slowly get us used to the idea of having to engage with an ad to perform a function. And the possibility of endless commercial breaks until you say “I heart Pringles” isn’t hard to imagine.

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A spokesperson for Spotify did not immediately return a request for comment about the feature.

If I were still a free subscriber, I might be open to this idea if it were limited exclusively to user-specific Spotify playlists—or heck, even podcasts! But if Spotify started prodding me to engage with Axe body spray ads? That’s going to be a hard “fuck no” from me, buddy.

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I also think that this feature, much like Spotify’s genius idea to force feed users podcasts while they’re trying to stream music, could be jarring to anyone who listens to music while doing anything else, for example studying, or working, or exercising. Spotify has 116 million ad-supported listeners on its platform, and it’s probably fair to assume a good number of these aren’t trying to engage with brands while using the platform as ambient noise (or otherwise).

The good news is, it sounds like folks who are served these ads have the opportunity to opt out while it’s still being tested through the “Voice-Enabled Ads” section of the Settings menu.

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To be clear, Spotify is hardly the only company doing something like this. That said, voice-enabled ads are the hell experience that no one asked for. Ads are already mostly terrible. Companies don’t need any help in making them worse.

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