‘There’s so much opportunity’: charting the rise of dedicated voice agencies

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Dedicated ‘voice’ agencies are on the rise. But is there enough demand from clients for them to thrive?

Last week, Voiceworks launched in the UK claiming to be the “world’s first full-service, voice-first consultancy” with a promise to “push the boundaries” to deliver an end-to-end voice strategy for increasingly curious brands. Meanwhile Mindshare launched a consultancy at the end of last year to advise clients on the burgeoning space.

That ad agencies are muscling in on servicing clients in this space is not surprising given the rapid adoption of voice tech. Deloitte says the global smart speaker market will grow by 63% in 2019, reaching an install base of 250m while research firm MarketsandMarkets says the industry will grow from $1.57bn in 2017 to $11.79bn by 2023. Furthermore, VoiceBot data says one in five US adults now have a smart speaker and in the UK adoption was shy of 10 million active users at the start of 2019.

Sophie Hind was until recently the regional strategy director at radio giant Global. However seeing the potential in voice, she recently joined Voiceworks as managing director. The team of 20 UK staff – who have been lured from top broadcasters and fellow ad agencies alike – will work from conception to execution across voice search, audio content and audio branding. Though it declined to detail its full roster, Hind claimed there is enough demand for the agency to focus wholly on voice.

According to DAX, 85% of marketers are increasing the budgets going into digital audio, including on smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home which are currently used by 17% of the UK.

Recent research from Xaxis and IAB Europe also found that 60% of marketers see an opportunity to increase their programmatic audio spend. At the moment, more than three quarters (79%) invest less than 10% of total ad spend on audio. 41% allocate no budget to programmatic audio at all. Daniel Knapp, chief economist at IAB Europe, said audio’s “high level of consumer engagement”, the brand-safe environments and the ease of the programmatic delivery, “creates a highly appealing media channel for brands”.

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