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Speak Easy

The rise of the voice-activated world

J. Walter Thompson - Speak Easy report

Speak Easy, a new trend report produced by J Walter Thompson Innovation Group and Mindshare explores our nascent relationship with voice technology and envisions the rise of the voice-activated world. Voice interaction will redefine not just how consumers live their lives, it will transform the way brands engage consumers.

Key findings of the report show that consumers have a stronger emotional connection to brands when using voice technology. In fact, the study which was conducted in collaboration with Neuro Insight, a leading neuroscience research agency, showed that emotional activity was twice as high when consumers voiced a brand question rather than type it. It also revealed that 50% less brain activity occurs when processing an answer delivered by voice, which means people find it much easier to use.

It also found that consumers want to give up control to their voice assistants as they take on more of a proactive role as ‘digital butlers’. 87% of voice users cite that ‘when voice technology works properly it simplifies their life’.

The study further finds that voice will free users from mobile dependency, liberating them from the screen and allowing them to better interact with the world around them.

The report was launched at the British Academy of Film & Television Arts in London on 5 April at an event celebrating the past, present and future of voice. In association with Sennheiser, the stage was transformed by an ambisonic audio journey through the history of the recorded voice, performed by Game of Thrones actor Meena Rayann. 

Highlights from the research were followed by a lively expert panel discussion hosted by BBC Click presenter LJ Rich. The panel, featuring experts from IBM, Neuro Insight, Acast and Enders Analysis, explored their vision of how the relationship between consumers and voice might evolve and debated themes such as building brand personality into technology and the future for advertising via voice tech.  

Speak Easy will be presented at the Cannes Lions festival on 20 June, where new research from eight international markets will be shared, in a session offering a fascinating comparison between Eastern and Western markets.

Trend 1: Voice to encourage more human interaction

  • 43% of smartphone users think voice technology will free us up from our dependency on the mobile to allow us to interact more with the world around us
  • 53% agree ‘it would be easier if technology could speak back to me’

Trend 2: Consumers want to give up control to ‘Digital Butlers’

  • Almost a third of respondents say they are excited by a future where their voice assistants anticipate what they need and take action or make suggestions
  • 88% of voice users say that when the technology works properly it’s magical

Trend 3: Consumers seek an intimate relationship with their voice assistant 

  • 36% of regular voice users say that they love their voice assistant so much that they wish it were a real person
  • Over a quarter of regular voice users revealed they have had a sexual fantasy about their voice assistant.
  • 44% of regular voice users stating “I am worried about companies listening to the conversations I have with my voice assistant.”  
  • Nearly half (46%) of potential users would use voice if there were guarantees around personal data and security.
  • 72% of regular voice users say “I think brands should have unique voices and personalities for their apps / skills and not just use the assistant on my phone”.

Trend 4: Voice is less mentally draining than touch or typing devices

  • 50% less brain activity occurs when processing an answer delivered by voice
  • A stronger emotional response to brands occurs when using voice to ask a brand question, with emotional activity twice as high when saying a brand question than typing it.

Key take outs:

  • Consider how voice interactions could add value when embedded in the customer journey: how can you save customers steps?
  • Experiment with voice user interfaces: get your hands dirty with a Skill or Conversational Action
  • Optimise for voice – think about conversational search and how your brand might be surfaced in a voice-activated world

Download the full report from here


  • Marie Stafford, European Director, The Innovation Group, J Walter Thompson
  • Jeremy Pounder, Futures Director, Mindshare



  • Duncan Anderson, Chief Technology Officer, IBM Watson Europe
  • Heather Andrews, CEO, Neuro-Insight UK
  • Joseph Evans, Senior Analyst, Enders Analysis
  • Adam Martin, Chief Content Officer, Acast
  • LJ Rich, Technology Presenter (BBC Click) (Panel Host)



Elizabeth Cherian, UK Director, The Innovation Group

Jeremy Pounder, Futures Director,

About the author

Marie Stafford, J. Walter Thompson, European Director, The Innovation Group

Marie joined J. Walter Thompson in 2004 and leads the European division of the Innovation Group, delivering trends, insights and thought leadership to the agency's clients.