Bot Talk: Is This the Future of Advertising?

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Kik, a popular chat service among the teen demographic, is diving into new territory – advertising via chat bots.

While it may sound like an exercise in folly, some experts think that “chatvertising” may be a way for brands and media buyers to find consumers right where they are.

Chatvertising? The first chat bot technology was developed in the mid-1960s by MIT professor Joseph Weizenbaum. Since then, chat bots have been refined to get better at interacting with humans. For the last forty years, programmers have input their own knowledge about the real world so chat bots can “think” more like humans. 

Kik claims that four out of every 10 U.S. teens actively use the service, and now they are using it to have conversations with brands like Moviefone, Funny or Die and the Kik team. By transforming these brands into “personalities,” media buyers are able to advertise without being avoided.

Just like chatting with your buddy. “If you could chat with a brand the same way you chat with a friend, that’s powerful,” says Ted Livingstone, founder of Kik.

Chat-based advertising has precedence, although not in this unique and direct way. For example, Line, a chat app from Japan, partnered with Paul McCartney in order to create custom “stickers” exchanged in the app to promote concert dates and McCartney’s music. Line users could also opt-in to receive updates about the singer through the app.

Unlike this one way broadcasting, Kik’s chat bots, on the other hand, participate in two-way conversations. They are considered primitive by most standards. Kik’s chat bot tells jokes and converses with users, while the other brands push content at the user.

Need to work out the kinks. So far the results are entertaining, but if this is going to be a true alternative for advertisers in the future, a few kinks need to be worked out. First, brands must be assured that the user interaction won’t lead to the chat bot saying something damaging to the brand. And then they must find a way to keep people engaged with the bot.

If they cross both of these barriers, chatvertising could be the way brands connect with consumers into the future.


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