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Advertising Communications

Yes, Your Amazon Echo Is an Ad Machine ( 177

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: CNBC reports that Amazon is in discussions with huge companies that want to promote their goods on Echo devices. Proctor & Gamble as well as Clorox are reportedly in talks for major advertising deals that would allow Alexa to suggest products for you to buy. CNBC uses the example of asking Alexa how to remove a stain, with Alexa in turn recommending a Clorox product. So far it's unclear how Amazon would identify promoted responses from Alexa, if at all. Here's the really wacky thing: Amazon has already been doing this sort of thing to some degree. Currently, paid promotions are built into Alexa responses, but maybe you just haven't noticed it. CNBC uses this example: "There are already some sponsorships on Alexa that aren't tied to a user's history. If a shopper asks Alexa to buy toothpaste, one response is, 'Okay, I can look for a brand, like Colgate. What would you like?'" So it seems like Amazon wants to get you coming and going. Not only does the company want to let you buy stuff with your voice. Jeff Bezos and friends also want to make money by suggesting what to buy and even by pushing those products higher up in the search results so that you're more likely to do it.
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Yes, Your Amazon Echo Is an Ad Machine

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  • SHOCKED! (Score:5, Funny)

    by pz ( 113803 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @11:38PM (#55860203) Journal

    No. Frelling. Way.

    That can't possibly be true. Biased suggestions? An attempt to sell stuff from a company that, well, sells stuff? No! I am verily astonished!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you can make new 'skills' for Amazon's gadget which result in more ads being delivered to users, Amazon will pay you

      Everything from Amazon, Google, Facebook, is ad-related

      You are not their customers, you are their product

    • The one actually somewhat surprising aspect is that it is, apparently, a 3rd party ad machine.

      Obviously, Amazon's little surveillance puck isn't in your house as a favor to you; but, unlike other advertising outfits, Amazon also sells a fairly gigantic amount of stuff, some house brand; all presumably more or less profitable for them based on the difference between the price they pay their vendor and the price you pay them.

      Given that, it isn't necessarily to be expected that Amazon would offer the abi
      • by Kiuas ( 1084567 )

        Amazon doesn't have too much house brand stuff; but one assumes that its margins on some of what it sells are higher than on the rest; so it could consume its own advertising space by promoting that; or encouraging purchases on Amazon rather than elsewhere.

        They could do that yes, but if they decided to go that route they'd be handing chips over to competitors like Google who have no qualms about selling ad space on these devices. The echo is the most popular device of its kind currently and I assume Amazon'

        • by mysidia ( 191772 )

          if they can't serve ads for nearby restaurants and services they're essentially throwing out money.

          Not "throwing out money": providing the customer the functionality that the customer paid for when they purchased the Alexa box.

          I for one want an HONEST agent which will make its best effort to suggest to me the BEST options for me: NOT prioritize suggestions that may be less good for me but are better monetized for Amazon.

          I say it is an unreasonable conflict of interest to be offering a "personal

          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

            When someone produces a non-cloud device, buy that. Sending your data back to a company for central processing is ALWAYS going to be subject to irresistible sponsorship temptation.

      • Whether you buy their house brand stuff or some 3rd party product through Amazon, they make money in either case. The strategy for Amazon to follow is not to maximize short term profit, it's to "own the vertical". And that goal is best served in this case by offering suggestions for all popular brands on offer rather than only their own. Each Echo ad for 3rd party brand products is still an ad to buy through Amazon. By not narrowing suggestions to their own presumably less popular) brands, they ensure p
    • Exactly!
      It's like asking your butcher if eating meat is good for you.
      Expect a biased answer.

  • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @12:09AM (#55860311)

    But I could never understand why *I* should pay *them* for it. It always seemed that it should be the other way around....

    • by Bing Tsher E ( 943915 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @12:42AM (#55860411) Journal

      I feel this way about a lot of advertising on items I own.

      We were given a set of 'Coca Cola' mixing bowls for the kitchen as wedding presents. I learned that the Coke logo could be fairly easily abraded off the glazed surface of the bowls.

      Coca-Cola was waaay behind on their payments for the ad space in our kitchen.

      • Sure, but just try getting the KFC off your storage buckets.
      • Coca-Cola did an even more amazing trick here: They turned their vintage logos and designed into desired decoration items. I even can remember my parents at end 70s getting Coca-Cola glasses for their hobby room bar. (they are still there and still would sell better than any other merch throwarounds.)

        • I used to have a housemate who particularly enjoyed drinking his Pepsi from a Coke-branded glass.
          • That's either a personal little rebellion agains the system or another case of brands becoming a generic.... Like googleing on yahoo....

            • Yes, but when you google on yahoo, yahoo still sees your search terms and google knows it came from yahoo.
              The only thing that might change is google might not be able to track you, since you are yahoos product they may hide you from google.

              How long before duck duck go starts selling information?

    • For the same reason one might buy a Kindle, which is nice e-reader, but also happens to be a platform for buying Amazon e-books. The important distinction is that the platform tie-in is just *one* of the device features, not the only one.

      Similarly, Amazon Echo is a general-purpose voice-control unit that can do or control a lot of other stuff. Buying things from Amazon is just one of its many functions.

      If Amazon gets too obnoxious with pushing ads, you might see some consumer backlash. These sorts of dev

    • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @01:09AM (#55860505)
      Perceived value. If you charge people more for stuff, they often think the stuff is worth more than it really is. If you gave them away for free, they'd be used as doorstops.
    • Yes, give us the machines for free is the advertising is worth so much to the companies that they are willing to be douches about the whole thing. Having to pay AND receive ads is ridiculous and I don't know why some people put up with that sort of abuse.

    • But I could never understand why *I* should pay *them* for it. It always seemed that it should be the other way around....

      That's because the internet ad-driven revenue model has ruined everything. People are so used now to get a "free" service (e.g. Gmail, Youtube, whatever) in exchange for being subjected to a barrage of advertising (and giving up their personal data to the provider of the service) that this is now becoming commonplace in services and products you actually pay upfront for, in real currency. People are so used to ads everywhere that they just ignore it, and the distinction is lost on them. So I pay $100 for a

  • Inevitable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gordguide ( 307383 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @12:09AM (#55860313)

    These devices are true "Trojan Horses". You invite them into your home, and they inevitably start sucking money through their channels for items you normally would buy at a bricks-and-mortar store. Dog food, tissues, a pizza, whatever. Sooner or later you will buy something from the small value category that Amazon (a merchandising company) or Google (an advertising company) don't normally sell in significant volume, or can't sell through their normal commerce channels due to perishability. If you're a retailer and you're not part of these ecosystems, your bottom line will be declining as of today.

    • If it's money you'd be spending anyway on Dog-Food tissues and pizza, there is not much sucking involved as you're already spending that money. "funneling" would be a better word. But then, if their offer is "better" than what you get at a brick-and-mortar store, then it's competition and considered fair in a capitalist system. (or any system that puts more weight on the self-regulating power of market than the cases where that intrinsic balance tips over, the system runs away and becomes self destructive)


  • Do most people use it for shopping? I tried it a couple times, but seems inconvenient since I rarely re-order the same item twice, so I can't say "Alexa, re-order toothpaste" -- I generally want to browse around and read reviews and look at prices from non-prime shippers.

    The only thing I use my Echo for is listening to music, turning the lights off, and sometimes the weather. Oh and and a kitchen timer.

    If it starts playing ads for any of those uses, I'll stop using it.

    • I just stop at the pharmacy and/or the grocery store on the walk home from the train once a week. Who needs to buy mundane stuff online if they don't live in BFE?
      • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

        Who wants to go to a convenience or grocery store once a week, when you can do it from a web browser and not stand in line, not waste time looking up and down aisles, and have it delivered to your door?

        • Immediate gratification. I don't have to worry when the package was delivered, where the hell they left it, if the food is fresh or not. And a little random human interaction never killed anyone.
    • These things seem oriented to the "Prime" member. People who honestly believe deep in their hearts that Amazon is an awesome company and that driving to actual stores to support a local economy is for old losers. They do buy the same stuff over and over from Amazon. Need toilet paper? Get Amazon to buy it. Need another liter of soda? Get Amazon to deliver it (and enter your house while you're gone to put it in the fridge). These are the people who scream at others "The $99 a year Pays For Itself!!!"


    • and unit conversion when cooking.

    • I bought batteries once, that's it. It suggested the same AA batteries I bought before. Beyond that, I use it for the same functions you do plus a few others (intercom with other rooms with a dot, kids use it to tell jokes and the #1 use is the shopping list).

      I don't know why everyone's making a big deal about this.

    • I rarely re-order the same item twice, so I can't say "Alexa, re-order toothpaste" -- I generally want to browse around and read reviews and look at prices from non-prime shippers.

      You sure take your toothpaste shopping seriously.

  • >Jeff Bezos and friends

    I love how people like to personify leadership roles like the president of a country or the CEO of a company so that there is a clear, well defined figure to shit on.


  • Alexa, fuck off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @12:41AM (#55860401) Homepage Journal

    Aaaaand just like that any and all of my interest in this product has disappeared.

    A personal assistant isn't if he serves more than one master. In the real world, we call that treason and cut their heads off. Well, in recent centuries we fire them instead, but same idea.

    • A personal assistant isn't if he serves more than one master. In the real world, we call that treason and cut their heads off.

      Alexa has always served only one master. It's just never been you.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Alexa, fuck off

      "Sure, I'll list our recommended sex toys..."

    • I never had an interest, because I like privacy. Why should I give that up to a company?

  • by bfwebster ( 90513 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @12:57AM (#55860461) Homepage

    I was an early Echo adopter and have a Dot now as well. I primarily use it to (a) maintain my shopping/errands list, and (b) stream music while I do stuff in the kitchen. I've never bought anything using it.

    But I can tell you if the day comes that Alexa gives me ads when I'm asking for something else, it's getting unplugged forever. ..bruce..

  • by Oligonicella ( 659917 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @01:16AM (#55860535)
    I do not want a friggin' relationship with my machinery.
    • Alexa, talk dirty to me

      Would you like some tissues? I can recommend Kleenex...

  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <> on Thursday January 04, 2018 @02:13AM (#55860691)

    If people are bound and determined to act like sheep, we shouldn't be terribly surprised when corporations treat them like sheep.

    What's really disappointing, though, is that so many have come to believe they actually deserve this, and vote in ways that facilitate their further victimization.

  • screwing with them?

    Pay cash for your Amzon spy device.

    Link it to a pre-paid credit card.

    Create a fake Amazon account.

    Create a tape loop of random words.


    • Figure out how to emulate the device in software -- then you don't even need to buy it to feed Amazon disinformation. :)
  • I'll make a fortune of my soon to be existing Alexa ad-blocking skill.

  • by 6Yankee ( 597075 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @05:23AM (#55861081)

    I really thought the whole fuss about these things all joining up and selling you stuff was overblown, until one day at work...

    I work in a university biochemistry department, where we do X-ray crystallography. We have a home X-ray source downstairs, which we're talking about upgrading. (No, Alexa, we're not buying it off Amazon, STFU.) My professor is interested in a system that uses liquid gallium for the anode, as opposed to the traditional spinning lump of copper. We've talked about it, a lot, phones nearby. Nothing weird has ever happened as a result.

    Then we had a meeting with the nice lady from the Innovations department - the one where they deal with all the patents and fun secret stuff. My boss, being a wonderful old-school professor, just had to tell her in detail about this device, even though it was only vaguely related to what we were meant to be discussing. Her iPhone sat innocently on the table the whole time.

    Not two hours later, I went to Amazon to buy some kayaking stuff. Top of my recommendations? 20 grams of gallium. Never had anything even vaguely like it recommended, before or since.

    Could be blind coincidence, of course...

    • Couldn't someone on the same IP or subnet have searched for gallium recently?
      • by 6Yankee ( 597075 )

        Indeed it's possible, although we each have our own IP so it'd have to be the subnet. But the timing was just too perfect, and I'm on Amazon all the time so it's had plenty of chances to happen before. It's not like we use gallium for anything else, either.

    • See this article... they mention that Alphonso hear only "TV adds", but of course it's hard to a software distinguish between talking and TV adds: []
    • I had the same thing happen to me. Some coworkers and I were sitting around talking about talking about old school cereals. Cream of Wheat, Malt-o-meal and such. Just discussing the shit our parents made us eat. As usual, I had my phone (iphone if that matters) in my pocket.

      The next day I checked my fantasy football team (ESPN, which serves ads) on my phone. Can you guess what I saw? It was an add for Cream of Wheat brand cereal! Spooky. I mean, really, I can't believe that brand actually still a
      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        You've nicely described confirmation bias.

        It's highly unlikely your iphone is spying on you. iPhones are subject to enough scrutiny from security researchers that would be caught pretty quickly. The same for any of the big brands, Google, Amazon, Microsoft.

        That doesn't mean they won't start after they get you hooked, and it doesn't mean that knockoff brand isn't spying on you. It also doesn't mean your actual queries aren't being stored and analysed.

        • Phones also have cr@ppy mics -- you have to be near one, practically talking at it for it to receive your voice. This is by design -- you want it to reject background noice. OTOH, home speakers/spy boxes are omnidirectinal.
  • "Alexa, do what I say and shut the fuck up"

    (and yes, I know I go to feminist hell for that one)

  • Amazon Echo, Siri, Google, etc. is Mycroft. I'm not sure if it's quite mature yet, but they are making leaps and bounds: []
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      A friend of mine got a Google Home. He and his girlfriend were training it on their voices. I guess it takes a bit of hacking to change the wakup phrase for Google, but Amazon is apparently easier.

      I'm tempted to get one just so I can name it asshole []. Hey asshole, what's the weather like?

  • Hell, Stevie Wonder could see this coming...

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter