Skip to main content

IBM announces Watson-powered ads that think


Welcome to the age of cognitive advertising.

IBM’s The Weather Company is today announcing Watson Ads that enable consumers to conduct remote brand-related conversations with this expert computer, via free-form text or voice,

“We believe this will transform advertising,” Weather Company global head of sales Jeremy Steinberg told me.

I saw remote demos of a couple of prototypes, although no images are yet available for the public. In one, for allergy medicine Flonase, a consumer can type any question, such as: “Is this safe for my son?” The HTML5 ad, available for desktop or mobile browsers or apps, opens up to allow more screen space once interaction begins. Watson remotely returns the appropriate, detailed answer.

Users can interact via typing or voice-recognition through their device’s microphone, and one assumes that Watson Ads will eventually talk back. The demos showed text responses.

I asked Steinberg if a brand might be concerned that Watson could generate some answer that offends or misinforms a potential customer. He said the brand creates a library of material, from which Watson assembles the “curated answer.”

But it’s not simply parsing for keywords, he said, and not simply returning pre-defined segments, as a bot might. Watson is actually making sense of the question, which is the key reason IBM is touting this as a new category of cognitive ads.

Steinberg pointed out that Watson — who, after all, took down Jeopardy human champions and is now making his living by undertaking such challenges as fighting disease — can reason, learn, decipher intent, understand natural language, and figure out how a brand is being perceived.

In another prototype ad, this one for sandwich sauce Manwich, the consumer can type in any ingredient, and ask, “What can I make for dinner using Manwich and these ingredients?”

“Nothing’s off the table”

Watson returns appropriate recipes on the fly, based on what he has learned as a result of the Chef Watson project. That is, he has learned/is learning how human taste works, and what ingredient combinations would make a tasty meal. The recipes, Steinberg pointed out, are created on the spot.

This kind of unique interaction could mean that ads become so valuable ad blockers risk missing the best original recipe they ever had. Essentially, it moves ads almost completely away from being messages, to becoming branded intelligent interactions with an unseen expert.

Although Watson is generally considered at the pinnacle of remote intelligence, remote agents like Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and newcomers like Viv might eventually challenge that position and make such cognitive marketing more widespread.

When the ads launch in a beta phase the fall, they will be available initially only for Weather Company properties — the Weather Channel and Weather Underground — and initially only for advertising from selected brands, including Unilever, Campbell’s Soup, and GSK Consumer Health.

Steinberg said he expected other advertisers to participate in cognitive ads, although the company is not ready to say if Watson ad tech will generally be available across the industry. He also pointed to opportunities for cognitive ads in TV, social search, and other channels.

“Nothing’s off the table,” he said.

These are just some of the areas that Steinberg indicated IBM is still figuring out. To help, it will create a Watson Ads Council of marketers as a “sounding board,” including the initial participating brands.

The ads can be targeted through location or local weather, as well as with third-party targeting data. While such cognitive ads are expected to generate reams of new kinds of data, he said there are no plans currently to add this kind of cognitive graph to users’ ad-targeting profiles.

And, since the ads have not yet entered the beta phase, there are no stats yet about whether they are actually more effective than regular ads for, say, selling stuff.

via Marketing Land


Popular posts from this blog

6 types of negative SEO to watch out for

The threat of negative SEO is remote but daunting. How easy is it to for a competitor to ruin your rankings, and how do you protect your site? But before we start, let’s make sure we’re clear on what negative SEO is, and what it definitely isn’t.Negative SEO is a set of activities aimed at lowering a competitor’s rankings in search results. These activities are more often off-page (e.g., building unnatural links to the site or scraping and reposting its content); but in some cases, they may also involve hacking the site and modifying its content.Negative SEO isn’t the most likely explanation for a sudden ranking drop. Before you decide someone may be deliberately hurting your rankings, factor out the more common reasons for ranking drops. You’ll find a comprehensive list here.Negative off-page SEOThis kind of negative SEO targets the site without internally interfering with it. Here are the most common shapes negative off-page SEO can take.Link farmsOne or two spammy links likely won’…

Another SEO tool drops the word “SEO”

This guest post is by Majestic’s Marketing Director, Dixon Jones, who explains the reasons for their recent name change.
Majestic, the link intelligence database that many SEOs have come to use on a daily basis, has dropped the “SEO” from it’s brand and from its domain name, to become Since most people won’t have used Google’s site migration tool before, here’s what it looks like once you press the “go” button:

In actual fact – there’s a minor bug in the tool. The address change is to the https version of (which GWT makes us register as a separate site) but that message incorrectly omits that. Fortunately, elsewhere in GWT its clear the omission is on Google’s side, not a typo from the SEO. It is most likely that the migration tool was developed before the need for Google to have separate verification codes for http and https versions of the site.
The hidden costs of a name change
There were a few “nay sayers” on Twitter upset that Majestic might be deserting it…

What will happen to influencer marketing if Instagram ‘Likes’ go away?

In April, app researcher Jane Manchun Wong discovered Instagram was testing removing “Like” counts on posts. At the time, an Instagram spokesperson told TechCrunch it was not a public test, but an internal prototype and that the company was “exploring” new ways to reduce pressure on Instagram.The possibility that Instagram – a primary platform for influencer marketing – may potentially eliminate “Likes” could impact the influencer community, causing brands to question whether or not an influencer has enough sway to contribute to the brand’s marketing efforts. Without an outward facing metric such as “Likes,” influencers would have to rely on other resources to prove their content is worthwhile – once such resource: influencer marketing agencies.Good news for agencies“I do see it as a good thing for influencer marketing agencies and platform providers,” said Leah Logan, VP of media product strategy and marketing for Collective Bias.Logan’s influencer marketing agency works with a numbe…