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Pandora is expanding the testing of its interactive voice ad capabilities. First unveiled last December, the feature allows listeners to interact with a commercial using only their voice. The ads require a listener to say “yes,” when prompted to further engage with the ad’s content (as opposed to the oft/ heard “click the ad to learn more” prompt.

The next phase of beta testing – what the company calls its “robust beta” phase – is geared toward setting standards for what the benchmarks should be for voice ads and if those guidelines vary by industry. Pandora is also looking at whether the format needs to be changed in order to improve engagement levels. During beta, Pandora says it will focus on a series of creative and ad effectiveness tests so marketers can better understand how to approach and leverage the new ad format within their overall media strategy.

Among the other questions the streaming company aims to answer is whether voice ads are better suited for driving conversation at the upper end of the purchase funnel, or are listeners ready to take action through more promotional messaging? And at a base level, do listeners understand they can talk to ads, and what action they need to take?

Pandora says nearly half (47%) of its users said they liked or loved the idea of interacting with a commercial by using their voice, and during alpha testing nearly three-quarters (72%) said the format is easy to use. “The challenge will be on brands to create content that is entertaining, useful and authentic enough to earn a ‘yes’,” the company said in a blog post.

Brands including Ashley HomeStore, Comcast, Doritos, Nestlé, Turner Broadcasting, Unilever and Wendy’s were part of the initial test group. The next group of advertisers taking part in the beta testing includes Acura, Anheuser-Busch, AT&T, Doritos, KFC, Lane Bryant, Purex Laundry Detergent, Purple, Unilever, T-Mobile, The Home Depot, Volvo and Xfinity, among others.

With all that 2020 has brought, Pandora says social distancing has put more emphasis on technology that allows people to have the human-like interactions that we crave and helps us navigate a virtual world more easily. “Consumers are adopting technology like voice AI or using it more frequently to help foster connections,” it said. “Advertisers are seeing a correlating need to rapidly address how they message and where they show up to reach and engage their audience in the most relevant ways.”

In a separate use of voice control, Pandora will also now allow users to unlock on-demand music search with their voice. It is a tool that is usually only available to subscribers. Users who search for a specific track with their voice will now be given the option of watching a video ad. If the user say says yes, the ad will play followed by the requested song. “By marrying voice search features to ad experiences like Premium Access, advertisers can quickly and seamlessly benefit from new listener behaviors,” the company said.