The Weather Company Creates Watson Ads That Interact With Consumers

The Weather Company, an IBM business, set out to change advertising Thursday with the first consumer use of IBM Watson technology for advertising.

The Watson Ad unit allows consumers to interact with IBM Watson through advertising by asking questions via voice or text and then receive information about the product or offering. 

The first ad unit will roll out on the site in fall 2016.

Campbell Soup, Unilever and GSK Consumer Healthcare become the first companies to collaborate with The Weather Company on Watson Ads.

GroupM’s MEC and Mindshare, serving as Campbell’s and Unilever’s media agencies of record, drove the data strategy and discussions around this collaboration. GSK Consumer Healthcare was brought on by PHD.



The "cognitive" advertising unit aims to give brands a one-to-one connection with consumers -- highly desirable to marketers. Jeremy Steinberg, Weather Company's global head of sales, believes Watson Ads can help to reveal consumer and product insights faster, revealing connections previously invisible to human data scientists.

The technology can understand natural language, reason, learn and interact with humans. It makes references between words, like "child" and "son" or "daughter." With cognitive understanding, the technology aims to help advertisers understand brand perception and what individuals favor, inform and optimize creative strategies, and use data more efficiently. 

For consumers, the technology will help to improve the customer experience and make more informed decisions at point of consideration.

Marci Raible, director of global media and marketing services at Campbell Soup Company, told Media Daily News that the brand will begin testing Chef Watson in in the fall.

"We're participating as one of the pilot advertisers, so we will be working with The Weather Company by looking at various data sources to pull together and then feed an ad back to the consumer," she said, adding that it's about creating that one-to-one connection that include answers that come from Campbell.

Campbell has been working with The Weather Company to use geolocation and weather data to serve consumers increasingly relevant messages, so Raible views the pilot as an evolution to use what she calls the "intellectual power" of Watson."

For example, an individual asks: "What can I make for dinner this morning?” Watson can sort through ingredients and flavor profiles, via its machine learning and reasoning ability, to make recommendations based on the weather, time of day, location and even ingredients users have on hand -- all surfaced through dynamic ads.

Jeremy Steinberg, global head of sales, The Weather Company, said not thinking in keywords but having the ability to communicate thoughts in natural language to a brand makes the ad unit that much more valuable. Marketers will discover what consumers want and need when it comes to information on the Web, he said.

Similar to Watson Ads, Carmine DiMascio, a software engineer at The Weather Company, has been working for the past four years on a feature he calls Chef Watson, which can take ingredients and create recipes on the fly. 

Watson Ads' use of The Weather Company data becomes a factor in query responses, given that dynamic technology taps into historical data and current conditions, like temperature, precipitation or the current weather forecast.

The Weather Company also plans to create the Watson Ads Council. Company execs will work closely with a team of marketers that will act as a sounding board for the latest innovations leveraging Watson Ads and cognitive advancements in advertising.

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