A Luddite Consumer Perspective - Icahn’s New Mega Buy, NUAN
This week Nuance Communications Inc. (NUAN) and its new “Voice Ads” realized more of what Tesla envisioned and McLuhan predicted as “the intensification of the world community,” which he postulated before cell phones, smartphones, laptops, Facebook or Google. A few days ago, Nuance Communications unveiled “Voice Ads,” as a new mobile advertising format that lets a billion people have two-way conversations with the brands they love. The question is: Do you WANT to have a conversation with a brand? I don’t. I never talk to my shampoo. Ever.
The company says, “By integrating Nuance’s powerful voice technology, Nuance Voice Ads transforms traditional mobile advertising into an engaging and entertaining conversational experience, and finally gives consumers a say in the way brands advertise to them – literally.” If you read between the lines as did Marshall McLuhan, the question is: Do you want to work for an ad agency without knowing it or without being paid for it? I don’t. And I already have a say in the way brands advertise to me – buy or pass on a purchase.
The company’s advertising copy says, “Nuance Voice Ads present an entirely new set of rules, and a brand new take on mobile advertising. By removing the constraints of the visual interface, Nuance Voice Ads embrace the most natural engagement process known to mankind: Conversation.”
The question is: Since radio also removed visual constraints so long ago and delivers ad content very nicely, and you can turn the radio off, do you really want to converse with ads, keyed to voice recognition, on your personal phone? I don’t. I really don’t. And the “entirely new set of rules” they are referring to probably means that a consumer may have to agree to surrendering privacy and asserting “no personal boundaries” whatsoever, Facebook style. Like our email account providers, maybe they just want your data, and the data of billions?
When you read Nuance’s explanation of their new Voice Ads, and it makes absolutely no immediate sense but sounds really fun, you have to wonder if this is more Homeland Security technology parlaying itself into the commercial realm. Yes, the idea is to move advertising revenue to smartphones. But the selling angle that voice ads are helping consumers “interact with brands” could be marketing spluff hiding a clever misappropriation of the old-fashioned telephone, a machine through which one person talks to another, in relative privacy.
Is this technology just another excuse to use geo-fencing and cell phone spying to not only listen in on consumer conversations but glean data from them, so that someone you don’t know can know you better? Do you really want to HELP them to help you to help them? I don’t.
George Orwell described a "dystopia" held in check by omnipresent surveillance in his classic novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” He was right. It’s far worse than we can imagine. As a consumer, I don’t know the full extent of what is coming with smartphone voice ad technologies. As a consumer I don’t want to buy into anymore unrelenting technological interference. But as an investor, apparently activist investor Carl Icahn does:
Near the unveiling of Nuance’s Voice Ads, Guru Carl Icahn made a new buy of NUAN shares, for a total of current shares at 29,329,291, as of March 20, 2013. The stock price range was $19.5 per share.
The makes Carl Icahn of Icahn Capital Management LP the largest Guru stakeholder of NUAN, followed by Pioneer Investments:
Nuance Communications Inc. (NUAN) has a market cap of $6.66 billion. Its P/E is 36.95; the P/B is 2.37. The company’s 12-month revenue growth rate is 25.3%, annual rate per share.
The current price is $21.06, with a change from average up 8%. The stock is down 17% in the past twelve months.
NUAN data byGuruFocus.com
Here’s a summary of Carl Icahn’s top buys, top sells, and top holdings.
Finally, McLuhan said that the objective of advertising is the manipulation, exploitation, and control of the individual. Do you really want that?
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