Watson’s Coming Impact on Digital Advertising

By Rob Beeler AdTech Village Archives

Jeremy Steinberg oversees advertising sales efforts across all consumer platforms and sales channels at The Weather Company, an IBM business, and is responsible for driving overall ad revenue and client and agency partnerships. He’s a well-recognized veteran of the digital media space, having started at Fox News in 2001 before moving to The Weather Company in 2013. I spoke to Jeremy about his role at IBM and how Watson can change digital media, and I asked him to give us a taste of what he’ll speak about at OPS on June 5th.

Rob Beeler: Jeremy, you’ve been in digital media sales for over 15 years. How has the transition to IBM impacted your view of media and media sales?

Jeremy Steinberg (pictured at right):  I see a bright future for media as Watson (pictured at top) and other cognitive technologies are going to transform the media industry. Everyone in digital media wants to be able to make better decisions and see a higher ROI. I’m fortunate to have a front seat view and as part of IBM I get the exciting opportunity to help steer the industry towards its cognitive future.  

Beeler: Yes, but is Watson going to take your place heading up sales?

Steinberg:  Ha! Yeah, I’m not worried about Watson taking my job because at IBM we’re guided by the term “augmented intelligence” rather than “artificial intelligence.”

Beeler:  Okay, what’s the difference between augmented and artificial intelligence?

Steinberg:  It’s the critical difference between systems that enhance and scale human expertise rather than those that attempt to replicate all of human intelligence. With “augmented intelligence,” we want to help extend human capability, expertise and potential -- not replace humans. We focus on building practical AI applications that assist people with well-defined tasks, and in the process expose a range of generalized AI services on a platform to support a wide range of new applications.

Beeler: How do you see that applying to digital media?

Steinberg:  Watson is smart enough to listen, learn and make increasingly refined suggestions -- the system can interact naturally, learn from interactions and surface meaningful insights from huge amounts of data.  With its deep speech and language capabilities, Watson can understand the intention behind a specific command and move beyond it.

As for Watson’s impact on digital media, there are three key marketing functions that we believe we can help transform:

  • Planning:  Because Watson can analyze all data, including unstructured formats like images, video and audio, we can apply Watson to make sense of a client’s data in conjunction with other predictive data sets like weather and location to unlock deep audience insights.
  • Execution:  We can then use those insights to create targetable profiles that enable marketers to anticipate and respond to the needs of an individual in real-time.
  • Optimization:  We are building tools that enable marketers to quickly and efficiently understand audience and campaign performance and easily make adjustments to drive towards a desired outcome.

We believe that when effectively leveraged, Watson can help brands create sustainable connections that will drive conversion lift, create lasting customer relationships and ultimately free up time for marketers to think more strategically and creatively about their business.

Beeler:  An area I’ve heard where Watson might be applied is natural language classification.  Will Watson help brands better understand the content that they are adjacent to and perhaps provide more brand safety?

Steinberg:  We have introduced Watson to the advertising ecosystem with Watson Ads. This is an industry-first solution that learns and interacts with consumers through advertising and is 100% brand safe. It also lets consumers interact directly with brands by having a personalized two-way conversation within an ad experience.  It uses Watson’s natural language and conversation capabilities to find a new recipe or a new car ... or even ways to relieve allergy symptoms.

For marketers, Watson Ads can act as a massive focus group by uncovering actionable consumer and product insights previously unavailable in traditional campaigns.

With each interaction the Watson Ads get smarter -- and that helps brands understand consumers more. Brands are finally able to listen to what their consumers are thinking and looking for.  These insights can then be used to inform future creative, product and messaging strategies.

Since Watson Ads interactions are consumer-driven, these personalized experiences can create meaningful connections with the brand that may ultimately lead to higher product sales.

As cognitive advertising evolves, it’s our hope that Watson Ads will inspire industry innovations.  We are actively planning new solutions and ways Watson can help marketers with problems like ad fraud and brand safety.

Beeler:  As you’ve talked to marketers, are they seeing the full opportunity?

Steinberg:  Most falsely assume that accessing data is extremely complicated and will require a significant overhaul of their systems and an insurmountable amount of new creative assets.  While architectural changes might help optimize performance over time, marketers actually have a surprising amount of resources at their fingertips.  For the executions that Weather ran with our partners, we leveraged existing FAQ documents, About Us statements and social prompts, which provided a rich starting point for our teams.  Then, when combined with third party data such as weather context or recently visited sites, the possibilities are remarkable.

Beeler:  Are there any specific use cases you can share with us?

Steinberg:  Watson Ads takes advantage of Watson’s conversation capabilities to address consumer questions, explain more about products and ultimately help them make better buying decisions.

In the consumer packaged goods category, for example, Watson Ads can tap Chef Watson to create brand new mealtime recipes on the fly, combining the consumer’s ingredient input with Chef Watson’s deep knowledge of the cooking domain.

We’re seeing an average session time of just under two minutes, which far exceeds industry benchmarks. We’re also uncovering interesting product insights like the fact that consumers tend to engage more deeply when they’re submitting non-intuitive ingredients for recipe suggestions.

Beeler:  Very cool. Will Chef Watson be catering your session at OPS?

Steinberg:  No.

Beeler:  I have a feeling you didn’t even ask. Last question: How big a part can Watson play in our lives?

Steinberg:  I can tell you that IBM's CEO and Chairman, Ginni Rometty, has stated Watson technology would impact the lives of more than 1 billion people by the end of 2017, and in five years every major decision -- personal or business -- will be informed with the help of Watson!

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