back to article Try not to scream: Ads are coming to Amazon's Alexa – and VR goggles

It's time to let Benjamin Franklin know that there is a third inevitability in life. To death and taxes, we must add advertisements. Despite a backlash against Google in March for adding a movie ad to its Google Home voice-assistant [surely you mean "invite to our partner to be our guest and share its tale"? – ed.], and …

  1. Kaltern

    Advertisers. Ruining people's fun one product at a time :(

    1. paulf

      How will it be ruined? FTA: "VoiceLabs claims the messages will be the first "voice-first" advertising that people will love" [my emphasis]. You're going to love these adverts! Oh yes you will. You will, oh go on. </sarc>

      People don't love adverts. At best they tolerate them (through gritted teeth) if they place more value on what they're getting in exchange for enduring the adverts (e.g. telly, radio, magazines) than on the time they spend on viewing/listening/skipping/blocking the adverts themselves. If this guy thinks people will "love" his adverts it'll be the first time people have ever loved any adverts. That seems quite unlikely (outside of his reality distortion field) so for that reason I will remain sceptical about his claims.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. paulf
          Thumb Up


          A good point; there were some great adverts, well written and entertaining making them more of an amusing short with integral product placement than a typical "Buy our shit" advert.

          The ones I remember date back to the 80s and 90s when (among other examples) a calamity prone and balding Gregor Fisher was flogging cigars. There was a lot of crap telly about then (we were so short of game show formats we had to licence 3-2-1 from Spain to keep Ted Rogers gainfully employed). There was also good telly but IME the good adverts tended to be better than the programming they were inserted into.

          The problem now is the adverts have been racing the programming in a chase to the bottom, via the obstacle course of in program product placement, plus sponsorship book ending the ad breaks. And don't start me on those bloody radio adverts where two people are having a completely genuine conversation over coffee about a new type of roofing felt.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              "She says at the end, better make it a diet coke..."

              Ah, you've met my wife?

          2. MJI Silver badge

            Quality ads

            From the likes of Ridley Scott as well no less

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "People don't love adverts. "

        Yup, that was the bit that leaped off the screen and grabbed me by the goolies. The word "love" is overused by advertisers and PR creatures such that it no longer means what the rest of us think it means. They use to mean "like a lot". It's almost been bastardised as much as awesome.

  2. Marty McFly Silver badge


    As if having big data spying in my living room for a big company wasn't enough, they are going to add big advertising. I already have a household ban on these devices because I value my privacy and security. Becoming an advertisement platform only helps solidify that decision.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Pass

      This isn't adding advertising to Alexa per se, its enabling advertising in third party skills that you'd be enticed to add to your Echo. Amazon doesn't permit advertising by skills at the moment except as part of an audio stream enabled by Alexa (e.g. Pandora advertisements). I don't see them changing that policy in the foreseeable future since it would be a sure fire way to get users to dump their Echoes.

      1. Richard Jones 1

        Re: Pass

        Originally I could see no reason for the tat, ow I can see only reasons not to buy the tat.

        1. Elmer Phud

          Re: Pass

          I am awaiting the complaints.

          When one installs a device from a company that loves trackers etc. spams inboxes etc. does one expect a halcyon existence without 'recommendations'?

          'Recommendations' that can only increase with the building of a user or family profile.

        2. trapper

          Re: Pass

          Saw it coming, and refused to buy either Alexa or their VR goggles. Google and Facebook are at least ad-supported services, so although their aggressive ad-pushing policies are gag-worthy, they are still understandable. Amazon sells goods. They don't need outside ad revenue. The propeller beanie with the attached webcam they slap on my head when I enter their store is enough. No ads, Jeff. No ads.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Palpy

      Re: never heard of anyone [responding to ad] ...

      From a years-old essay on internet advertising, published in The Atlantic: "Campaigns like this [targeted search ads] have 'no measurable short-term benefits,' the researchers concluded."

      In other words, Wanamaker's paradox ("Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted... the problem is, I don't know which half") might be more like 95% waste and no measurable benefit.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: never heard of anyone [responding to ad] ...


        "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted... the problem is, I don't know which half"


        "All the money they spend on advertising is wasted... But if we make it convoluted enough, they won't notice".

    2. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Why Do They Persist....

      The trouble is, Ads do work. You can run experiments and show increased sales compared to a control group. You may not know which worked but you know some worked. You can also run surveys before and after to measure brand recognition. You can track Ad impression to click to purchase, in enough volume to generate significance. The Ad industry is not delusional and Universities are churning out a few grqduates who can tell the difference between statistically robust evidence and poor quality annecdotes. The Ad industry these days attracts some of the best statisticians.

      If you're an Internet site then click-bait adverts like those served by Outbrain and Taboola can drive significant traffic to your site.

      You really think that Meercats have done nothing to alter where people buy car insurance and Labrador puppies what they wipe with?

      It's fashionable to deny advertising works - and generates upvoted on The Register - and has been for decades, but it just isn't true.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Why Do They Persist....

        >>You really think that Meercats have done nothing to alter where people buy car insurance and Labrador >>puppies what they wipe with?

        But they do not advertise A-Plan Insurance nor Tesco Luxury Soft Toilet Tissue.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Why Do They Persist....

          Actually Tesco toilet paper is not bad value.

          usually stock up when cheap

    3. Rattus Rattus

      Re: Why Do They Persist....


      Well to be fair, I have, just once. I normally use ad blockers and script blockers of course, but I don't mind disabling them on certain specific sites that I use frequently, don't have intrusive ads, and ads are their primary way of paying the bills. One of these sites which I use for anime related content once had a (static, no-audio, non-intrusive) sidebar ad for a figurine of a character I really liked from a show I enjoyed. It was affordable, and I liked it. So, this one particular time I clicked the ad and made a purchase. I guess advertising that is relevant, non-intrusive, and respectful of the audience can occasionally work. What a pity that the vast majority of advertising doesn't even fulfil a single one of these criteria let alone all three.

      1. LaeMing

        Re: Why Do They Persist....


        Even without an add-blocker, I just don't see them without explicitly looking for them.

        Advertising as it is generally presented to the masses generally just doesn't work on me. Presumably the demographic I am part of just isn't important enough to tailor advertising for (it would have to be ads with a lot of easily-parsed technical detail about why a product is genuinely useful to me - there are products like that out there: I generally find them via a combination of hard searching, accident and reading datasheets).

        1. Elmer Phud

          Re: Why Do They Persist....

          You ain't that special . . .

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. strum

      Re: Why Do They Persist....

      > i have never heard of anyone progressing a purchase through any advertising on a web site or other.

      Largely, advertising isn't intended to make the viewer go and buy something. It's purpose is to put that brand (deep) in your head, so that, when you come to buy something of that ilk, that brand name is familiar (and comforting).

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Why Do They Persist....

      "Is there a collective delusion of advertising/marketing types, or are colleges and universities failing catastrophically in some way ?"


  4. Not also known as SC

    Audio Ads

    I was almost considering an Echo until I found out you need to have various levels of membership to get the most out of it - Prime and Music Unlimited. Audio ads definitely kills the deal for me. Audio ads are bad enough on commercial radio.

    As for 3D objects in a VR headset - way to kill the product dead before it even takes off.

    1. paulf

      Re: Audio Ads

      What caught my eye is that they'd dangle a pair of Nike shoes in a VR shop window, or a can of Cuke on a table. Is there anyone in the western world (or other parts of the world for that matter) that aren't aware of things like Nike shoes and Cuke's caffeinated sugar water? Apparently the most widely known word in the world is "OK", the second is "Coca-cola" (but that may be apocryphal).

      Presumably he's saying the only people who can afford to advertise on his platform is the very brands that have likely already reached saturation in their advertising reach.

  5. Haku

    "It's 3 am, are you having trouble sleeping? If so, try new Snooze Eze from Blammo."

    Bleary eyed homeowner wakes up, "Honey, did you leave that fucking Alexa on again?"

  6. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Credibility gap

    Advertisers seem unable to see the difference between "we can" and " we should". Everything that can be exploited will be. Whether there is any appreciable gain for them is irrelevant to the agencies, but apparently also to those who pay the agencies for transmitting these ads.

    My guess is that the target isn't the consumer, but the financial industry- doing this stuff makes the brands seem active and aggressive etc. and so keeps share prices higher.

    1. dan1980

      Re: Credibility gap

      'Advertisers seem unable to see the difference between "we can" and " we should".'

      I disagree. I believe advertisers are very cognizant of the difference; they just use rather different criteria for 'we should' than you might.

  7. Zebo-the-Fat


    I didn't want this piece of hi tech crap before, now I want it even less!

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: NO!

      Now, now.

      Where the hell is the 'high-tech' in basically an answerphone connected to a server and appearing to be far, far more intelligent than it really is -- just another 'speech to - - -' device.

      BUT give it a female name, a female voice and the stupid humans anthropomorphise like mad.

      Then they give it attributes it has never had.


  8. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Just when I was beginning to contemplate thinking about getting one

    Now: just piss off.

  9. VinceH

    'Despite a backlash against Google in March for adding a movie ad to its Google Home voice-assistant [surely you mean "invite to our partner to be our guest and share its tale"? – ed.],'

    I can't see any way to fit that in without rendering the sentence nonsense.

    Anyway, that aside...

    "a marketing analyst said devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home would account for 25 per cent of digital ads within the next three years."

    Since I never intent to own one of these, if that meant 25% fewer adverts elsewhere, because they've moved to those devices, that's brilliant. Shame it doesn't mean that, though. Ho hum.

    I think this is how it works:

    "Look! Over there! Something without advertising!"

    "What? We can't have that sort of thing! Grab it! Don't let it get away!"

  10. Graham Lockley

    The late great...

    By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising...kill yourself. Thank you. Just planting seeds, planting seeds is all I'm doing. No joke here, really. Seriously, kill yourself, you have no rationalisation for what you do, you are Satan's little helpers. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now. Now, back to the show. Seriously, I know the marketing people: 'There's gonna be a joke comin' up.' There's no fuckin' joke. Suck a tail pipe, hang yourself...borrow a pistol from an NRA buddy, do something...rid the world of your evil fuckin' presence.

    Bill Hicks

    1. Kane

      Re: The late great...

      How do you live like that? And I bet you sleep like fucking babies at night, don’t you?

      “What didya do today, honey?”

      “Oh, we made ah, we made ah arsenic a childhood food now, goodnight. Yeah we just said, you know, is your baby really too loud? You know? Yeah, you know the mums will love it.”

      Sleep like fucking children, don’t ya. This is your world, isn’t it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The late great...

      The next part of that...

      "I can just hear the advertisers in the audience now, 'Oh wow! Bill's going for angry denial, oh that's a big market!' Just quit it please. Just stop putting a fucking dollar amount on everything. 'Ooh, the 'pleading dollar', huge market right there!'. *starts fake crying* Just quit it. Just leave me alone, please!"

  11. MrT

    "OK, you can scream now..."

    Careful, now - the other day I had a bit of a coughing fit: my phone thought it sounded enough like "OK Google" to launch a voice search. What it searched for was gibberish, and none of the results included "cough sweets" of any sort...

    1. Haku

      Re: "OK, you can scream now..."

      It could be worse.

      Imagine if they implimented the ability for your device to determine you're having an asthma attack because it hears you're wheezing but no tschhh sound of an inhaler, so it calls paramedics.

      Only this time it wasn't an asthma attack, the paramedics discover you with your trousers down your ankles and... well you can guess the rest...

      1. LaeMing

        Re: "OK, you can scream now..."

        I'm pretty confident the average paramedic has seen far worse!

  12. Sgt_Oddball

    more and more I'm becoming convinced..

    That the powers that be are dystopian fiction readers or at least getting they're ideas from them.

    In this instance go read transmetroplitan and wonder just how long before ebola cola and caribu eyes become a thing (and I'll never be partial to long pig even if it was vat grown).

  13. SteveastroUk

    First ad I hear on my Echo, it goes in the bin. Or, better, send it to Amazon HQ

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Is that another Echo covered in human or dog feces?"


      "Oh well, hide it from Jeff and stick it in the special bin marked Echo RMAs over by the conference room."

      "advertisers are desperate to squeeze themselves into" our anuses so that they can broadcast adverts 24/7 at 90 decibels to sell that extra jar of Soylent Peanut-like Butter Substance. "Now in handy suppository shaped jars! Available in the Amazon Fresh section of our store."

      Quiet, Alexa.

      The future advertisers wet dream will be when everyone is forced by King Trump to get these devices installed into every home "for national security" and every time you open your mouth a new product similar to what you just said is automatically ordered and shipped. And no one seems to mind or care what arrives anymore. Everything will seem broken, because it will be designed by marketing committees because people voted for corporations to take over without realizing it, or correcting it.

      I don't ever recall the Star Trek NG crew having to wait for a bit while an advert played on the Holodeck. The aired show had adverts, but I never watched that. I only get to view clean shows now. No adverts. I pay extra for that where I can, and skip what I can't. Anyway, great use of augmented reality and VR: shove some real world products in there to remind the sheep where to get their Frosted Rat Flakes. "And now back to Middle Earth... brought to you by Klondike Bars! Who would you hew-ohh-ohh-hew for a Klondike Bar?!"

      Hi, Frodo, what's happening?

      "My giant feet are hurting, but not for long with fast actin' Tenactin!"

      *sigh* Piss off, shorty.

      *shuts off VR player and goes outside*

      1. Fortycoats

        For some reason, this clip from Futurama came to mind:

        Google and Amazon are probably working on it as we speak.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Adverts on Star Trek?

        Never seen any.

        But then saw them on BBC

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Adverts on Star Trek?

          But then saw them on BBC

          Ah - you must not be living in civilisation then. No adverts on the BBC here (except for advertising forthcoming programmes)

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Adverts on Star Trek?

            That is what I said!

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        and every time you open your mouth a new product similar to what you just said is automatically ordered and shipped

        I remember another sci-fi short (can't remember who by) that takes place in a world where perfect manufacturing capabilities means there is no scarcity of anything. So people are forced by law to consume, every day, every hour, in order to keep the factories working.

        The higher status you are, the less you have to consume. The peak of the story comes where the protagonist finally meats someone at the pinnacle of society. That person is wearing old, comfortable clothes, only eats what they really want to and lives in a small, run-down house and the protagonist is overcome with looking to aspire to the situation where he doesn't have to consume endlessly.

        In the advertisers heads, that's a perfect world. Unfortunately for us, a lot of consumers yearn to consume visibly too - and so the advertisers can continue to be a boil on the face of humainty.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      I think they've factored in the cost of a certain percentage of people stopping using it, because they know most will put up with ads for Disney films appearing in replies.

  14. soaklord


    As I understand the article, you'd only get advertisements from skills that have them embedded in some way. If you disable those skills, you can't get ads. For example, a skill that allows you to listen to broadcast radio would have to be enabled before you could listen then, therefore, be advertised to. Don't commit Alexicide, just murder kill the skill that has advertising. If asking Alexa herself for searches results in advertising, then, yeah, I'll commit Alexacide. All five of them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Optional



      Talk in tech terms dude, not this marketing gibberish. Is that a mode? a profile? some sort of channel subscription?

      1. Alt C

        Re: Optional

        Have an upvote sir - I have no idea what this skill is they are talking about either.

        Mind you I'm not even sure what the point of these things is - can anyone with one enlighten me on what it does better than any of the older ways of playing music, making a to do list or searching the web?

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Optional

      I see your rationalization1) mechanisms are alive and well.

      1) Rationalization is an attempt to logically justify immoral, deviant, or generally unacceptable behavior. In Freud’s classic psychoanalytic theory, rationalization is a defense mechanism, an unconscious attempt to avoid addressing the underlying reasons for a behavior.

      Rationalizing an event may help individuals maintain self-respect or avoid guilt over something they have done wrong. In many cases, rationalization is not harmful, but continuous self-deception, when a person consistently makes excuses for destructive behavior, can become dangerous. (Source, more here.)

      In my limited layman's experience, usually the key element that keeps people from getting out of abusive and/or co-dependant relationships. Generic quote: "It's just about tolerable right now because [reason]. But if [whatever] changes/happens, I'm outta here." Nope, you'll probably won't.

    3. Kane

      Re: Optional @ soaklord

      I'm sorry dude, I understood every single individual word in your comment, but I still don't know what you said.

  15. Unicornpiss
    Thumb Down

    Simply won't be using it

    And I urge everyone else to consider doing the same. There are already enough ads all of us are exposed to every day. Just needless aggravation and a lowering of the collective IQ, IMHO.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get me of this f'in planet...

    ...."So if you are playing your new VR game on your Oculus later this year, don't be surprised to see a pair of Nike sneakers appearing in shop fronts, or a Coke can popping up on that table next to you."...

    * * * Can we not make something / sell something with utility that's Ad-free Slurp-free anymore? Why is America always running the show... They have no scruples about selling out their granny for a dime!

    1. LaeMing

      Re: Get me of this f'in planet...

      Of course we can (and do) make such things. You just won't find them in the regular retail channels. Some assembly may also be required.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Get me of this f'in planet...

      They have no scruples about selling out their granny for a dime!

      They will both sell out granny AND make her pay for it as well.

      Because anything other than unfettered theft capitalism, is damn commie socialism!

  17. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    OK, you can scream now. ®


  18. bombastic bob Silver badge

    Time to move these "assistants" out of "teh klowd"

    yeah I made a spelling booboo on 'the cloud" deliberately to make a point: "teh klowd" is getting DUMB. er.

    If you had your OWN "audio assistant" it would make more sense. Then you could customize it, NOT send every query through someone else's SPYWARE, and NOT have an "open mic" waiting for some listener to spy on your personal life with.

    Because, if the signal or information NEVER leaves your personal equipment, then YOU are in control!

    And I'd probably give it a more interesting name, that SOME might find offensive. Deliberately.

    (and here we are with computers hundreds of times more powerful than the one that sent man to the moon, and NOBODY is running their own speech recognition stuff, instead relying on some cloud service that could potentially spy on everything we do, and NOW serve up DELIBERATE ADVERTISING, when OUR computers that we OWN, Win-10-nic notwithstanding, could be doing that WITHOUT the spying and advertising...)

  19. Sooty

    conflicted on the VR one

    So if you are playing your new VR game on your Oculus later this year, don't be surprised to see a pair of Nike sneakers appearing in shop fronts, or a Coke can popping up on that table next to you.

    I kind of have no real issue with product placement like this, as long as it's below a certain level. Like in films, you'd be more likely to notice something standing out if it were unbranded, or a fake brand, than something you see everyday. it's when the brands are everywhere that it looks stupid, if every billboard or advert is for the same product, every laptop is a the same brand as the adverts etc. If it gets worked into the dialogue so it sounds unnatural. We'll set off for the mission, just after I've finished enjoying this cool, refreshing, Pepsi.

    if it's just brand awareness, that's not an issue, if it's noticeable to the point it takes you out of the game, especially in VR, it'll be really annoying.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: conflicted on the VR one

      Product Placement. Two sides to this. Can be fine, can be annoying. Depends on usage.

      Some video games get flack for this. Seen some people moan about Uncharted 4.

      Why can't Nathan Drake own a Sony phone?

      Why can't Elena FIsher own a PS1?

      Perhaps because ND is owned by Sony. But needs a phone, why not use own make.

      But then in The Last of Us EVERY games console in a house or shop was a PS3. But that was not an advert nor product placement as to play the game you needed one. I wonder if it was because there would be no copywrite issues.

  20. Locky


    Send an email to faceless Ad man saying he can shove this advert up his .....

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no great loss to humanity

    Sorry Kieran, I know you love this contraption, but for the rest of the population it's a meh, etc. Beware amazon bearing (baring) expensive toys and all that.

  22. Bronek Kozicki

    I need to commend my wife here

    ... because she had banned any use of Alexa in our household, as soon as I announced that it was available on our Fire TV. The reason was that she cannot stand me (or anyone around) actually chatting with a computer. As a result neither me nor children got attached to it. One act of female sensibility and a small win for the whole family :)

  23. FuzzyWuzzys

    Stick Alexa up you output port!

    "Nothing escapes the eyes of the ad men – as was made plain by a digital marketing conference earlier this week in which a marketing analyst said devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home would account for 25 per cent of digital ads within the next three years."

    Not in my bloody house it won't! My house is a controlled sanctuary of calm and relaxation. We have no Sky, Virgin not even a Freeview device in sight. Of course we have the internet but with ad servers blocked at the point of entry to our abode. I have no choice of ads out in the big wide world, my home is my castle and I'll defend from the scumbag admen with my dying breath!

  24. sebt


    "VRFocus had a chat with Vertebrae's CEO and, as ad companies always are, he was full of energy and happiness about the opportunity to shove companies' products down millions of users' throats while talking about how much he respects those self-same users."

    VERTEBRAE? How about Smugg Spynlss Cke-Flled MnyGrabbng Twt?

    Fellow-commentards above have already done the Bill Hicks thing. But does anyone remember that very short sequence in Terry Gilliam's masterpiece "Brazil"?

    The big truck is driving down what looks like a Scottish glen - but the road is lined with a continuous palisade of ads on both sides, so that people driving along it (unlike the camera) can't see anything except the ads.

    That's twunts like these's vision of the future. They can shove it up where ideas like this came from, and then jiggle it about a bit.

  25. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge


    OK, you can scream now. ®

    I think it appropriate to use a short story[1] title here (going by the advertising industry's famed levels of end-user engagement):

    "I have no mouth yet I must scream"

    [1] Harlan Ellison. An apt description of a world run by an all-seeing computer with an utter lack of morals where the only people left in the world are kept alive in order to be tormented by the computer. Sort of a parable of Windows 10..

  26. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge


    first "voice-first" advertising that people will love,

    And if that's true, I have a nice bridge to sell you. Where you ask? Sahara. It crooses one of the many rivers in that green and pleasant land..

  27. hellwig

    Game Ads aren't New

    I know VR is more than just games, but ads in games aren't new. I remember playing some Tom Clancy Spec Ops thingamajig, and as I walked through a Vegas convention hall, what did I see but Comcast banners strewn about. If I recall, those types of ads are even pulled from the internet live, they aren't pre-built.

    VR ads, if unobtrusive, shouldn't change the experience at all. If you're walking down a street, you might expect to see store fronts or billboards. If those expected objects have familiar brands, does that change the experience?

    Of course, obtrusive ads need to die a quick, yet agonizing death. If my echo so much as whispers an ad without anyone activating it, I will smash it with a sledge hammer, burn the pieces to ash, and scatter them to the four winds. I'll make the wife cancel Prime too, since Amazon already has my money for the echoes.

  28. ecofeco Silver badge

    Anyone not see this coming?


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