OK Google, do you track ads?

After in-home voice-activated assistants have been inadvertently triggered by TV programs in the recent past, I guess it was only a matter of time until an ad agency decided to hop onto the gravy train. Cue BurgerKing, which launched an ad that was – to put it euphemistically – ill-advised.

A video from a Burger King marketing agency showed the plan in action: “You’re watching a 15-second Burger King ad, which is unfortunately not enough time to explain all the fresh ingredients in the Whopper sandwich,” the actor in the commercial said. “But I got an idea. O.K. Google, what is the Whopper burger?”

Prompted by the phrase “O.K. Google,” the Google Home device beside the TV in the video lit up, searched the phrase on Wikipedia and stated the ingredients.

Of course, the internet being the internet Wikipedia’s entry for the Whopper was quickly subject to edit wars, some of which is detailed by Gizmodo, and ultimately Google decided to deactivated this particular request.

Which of course is problematic in that Google tries to portray some sort of algorithmic platform impartiality around its One True Answer-system derived from search results. On the other hand, Google itself was found flatfooted after it experimented with ads on the Home platform, and users didn’t exactly like it.

Two observations from this:

1) Advertisers will definitely try to take advantage of voice-activated systems more. You can already imagine a system where a Shazam-like system tracks which TV ads you actually watch.

2) Voice-activated systems really need voice fingerprinting. This wouldn’t have worked if Google Home only reacted to a registered user’s voice input.