Will automotive companies like BMW become the next advertising channel by combining voice and accurate location data?

30 years ago, it seems that our voices were used an awful lot more. To talk to each other, face-to-face mostly, and sometimes over our fixed-line telephones. Then the mobile telephone was invented, and people stopped talking. They started texting, messaging, liking and sharing on their telephone, but stopped actually talking.

In recent times, Apple, Google and Amazon have brought voice back, and the automotive industry seem to be in hot pursuit with voice assistants built in to newer models.

Take BMW, who recently revealed their brand new 3-series, powered by the Microsoft Cloud platform. It could be argued that a voice assistant in-car makes even more sense than it does in the home. It is hands-free, and can be used without moving your hands from the wheel or your eyes from the road. So from a safety point-of-view it is winning. In the home there are many ways to look up how you get to the airport avoiding the M25, but in the car while driving, voice search clearly wins.


Currently, the in-car voice assistant helps you with information on how to use features and settings like temperature and ambient lighting, with service alerts and by contacting you via your smartphone if the theft alarm sounds. Interestingly, BMW also announced that it uses machine learning to get to know you over time and that it can ‘suggest stopping off at your favourite restaurant along the route’.

This for me is where it gets really interesting. I remember working with a start up app developer many years ago who were before their time. They had basically produced an early version of Waze, that injected brands into the map. So you were driving along London Road, and the McDonald’s golden arches would appear on your map long before you could see them through your windscreen. In-car voice assistants have a huge opportunity to integrate with other brands, by offering sponsored suggestions and maybe even a discount via the BMW Concierge service

When Dieter May, Senior Vice President Digital Products and Services, Digital Customer Interface, at BMW introduced the voice assistant at the Tech Crunch Disrupt conference, he announced that BMW already has over 4m connected customers.

Imagine a world where companies like McDonalds and Starbucks pay BMW, or more likely pay Microsoft, to inject their locations, opening times, and maybe even BMW concierge-linked discounts into the voice assistant. Here’s how a conversation might go in my car …

“Hey BMW, I’m tired and hungry”.

“Mike, you have been driving for 90 minutes, shall I suggest some local restaurants you could stop at en-route?”

“Yes please”.

“Sure. There is a Mcdonald’s 2 minutes from here, a Nando’s just 3 minutes away and a Pret 4 minutes from here. All of these restaurants have exclusive offers for you via your BMW Concierge service – would you like me to direct you to any of these or find some alternatives?”

As my assistant learns over time, it would know that if the question contains the word hungry, then the answer to that question is always Nando’s. I’m sure the order of the suggestions would change as a result.

For an advertiser, it is the right message, at the right time, in the right place. It’s brand safe. It has accurate location data, which not all lotion-based campaigns can offer, and it is adding value to the consumer. For BMW, they have the opportunity negotiate favourable terms for their BMW customers, which will add the perceived value of the BMW Concierge service, while generating a revenue stream.

I will now share this article with some industry-leading thought leaders in the automotive, voice and location spaces to see what ideas and thoughts they have. I will update this article with any thoughts they may offer.

Please follow Mike Nicholson for news on this, and future articles via Twitter and LinkedIn.

#TechCrunch #BMW #LocationData #VoiceAdvertising #Microsoft #Nandos #Pret

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