Alexa advert complaint dismissed after accidental cat food order

Amazon's algorithms should ensure it doesn't happen again

Alexa avoids cat-food calamity

Amazon has been cleared of a breach of advertising standards, after one of its Alexa adverts inadvertently ordered cat food on someone’s smart speaker.

The advert, aired back in October, caused a complaint that the advert was “socially irresponsible” after the feline food appeared on the customer’s Amazon shopping basket. It’s not clear whether the job lot of Purina arrived or not, but it’s extremely unlikely, given that Alexa will ask you to confirm shopping orders – which makes a bit of a mockery of the entire complaint.

The Advertising Standards Agency ruled that Amazon wasn’t in breach of its code – and acknowledged that the company had taken steps to ensure the problem wouldn’t occur in the future.

In a statement the ASA highlighted the obvious flaw in the complaint – that ordering this way isn’t really possible with the checks put in place by Amazon.

"We understood that it would not be possible for a purchase to be made without the account owner's knowledge, even in instances where technology, intended to stop ads interacting with devices, had not been effective," the regulator said in its decision.

But the ASA also pointed to developments made by Amazon to stop its Echo speakers interacting with TV adverts. Amazon has detailed how its added algorithms into its software, to combat the problem of accidental shopping orders from TV. This came to light after the Super Bowl, where Amazon had to act to stop mass activations of its speakers, as its advert aired to 100 million people.

The ramifications of the same problem occurring would be highly embarrassing, and moved Alexa to use digital audio fingerprinting to discount audio from its own adverts. Amazon can also monitor mass awakenings from the same audio trigger and shut them down, too.

Don’t forget to check out our collection of Amazon Alexa guides.

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