Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pudding Media Calling...from the "Ministry of Truth"?

What is it

Scraping data from VOIP telephone conversations has been brought up a few times at local search conferences. Usually the question is asked in the context of being used as an optimization tool for keyword advertising campaigns that are tied to calls. Marketers can get extreme intelligence from inbound callers and the keywords they utter throughout a conversation with a customer service representative.

The subject has been a touchy one. The thought of big brother eavesdropping on your private conversations is a little sensitive.

Pudding Media, a start-up based in San Jose, California, recently introduced an Internet phone service supported by advertising related to what people are talking about in their calls. Much like Skype, consumers use a headset with their computers and call anywhere in the world at minimal costs. The Pudding service differs in that it does not charge for calls.


Pudding Media scrapes data on phone calls in order to display ads on the screen that are related to the conversation. A voice recognition ad server monitors the calls and then serves ads based on what it hears to the user’s computer screen while the call is taking place.

So when a user is discussing the purchase of a digital camera, an ad for Best Buy may conveniently appear on the callers browser. Dynamically driven ads could zero in on specific camera models etc.

Apparently Pudding Media is sorting out an email platform that will allow users to email the content to each other. Ads could end up on the mobile device during the call.


  • Optimal targeting through real time contextual ad serving
  • Free calls for the users
  • Viral potential - 1 to 2 marketing (an engaged "2")
  • Targeted at younger consumers who could potentially be won over as loyal users


Voice recognition technology has come a long way. The idea of deploying it in this manner is complicated.

As this may be skewed towards a younger audience or one that is quite cost conscious, I would wonder what kind of brand association is being offered to the advertiser. There is a definite fit for selected verticals but in the main, it might be difficult to convince Fortune 500s to advertise in this "eavesdroppy" space.

The Gmail application appears to be working. If people can get around text scraping, they may get over voice scraping as well. If Pudding positions this as a benefit to the user, it might just work.

Privacy issues on this specific subject have already started to brew. Last year at a New York Search conference, I raised this subject on a pay per call panel. There happened to be a privacy advocate in the audience that immediately stated that this type of data scraping can be considered a breech on the privacy and security. I'm not sure how Pudding has managed to get around this issue but I'd like to dig a bit deeper.

Who knows, with full disclosure, user consent, high quality free calling and a few prayers, this could develop into an interesting story.

I'm curious to see how a Krillion-type business might fit into this picture...

No comments: