IBM is introducing a number of “AI-powered solutions” intended help brands better manage the balance between human intelligence and machine learning.
The new Watson and AI offerings cut across multiple professions and industries including advertising, agriculture, customer service, engineering, healthcare, HR, marketing, and manufacturing.
For marketers, a case in point involves a campaign on behalf of Subway designed to improve online ad effectiveness while driving store visits.
Subway came to IBM Watson Advertising with the goal of driving an increase in store visits. They were interested in leveraging the connection between weather and QSR foot traffic to drive awareness of their $4.99 Footlong promotion via The Weather Channel mobile app.
To build awareness and ultimately drive in-store visits to their restaurants, Subway leveraged Watson Advertising’s newest targeting capability — WEATHERfx Footfall with Watson. This capability leverages machine learning to process weather, sales, and footfall data specific to a brand’s store locations to predict increases in footfall traffic and enable brands to intelligently adapt and optimize their media to capitalize on it in real-time.
In addition to helping drive a 31 percent lift in store traffic vs. those who weren’t exposed to Subway’s digital advertising, Subway also saw a 53 percent reduction in campaign waste, salvaging about 7.9M impressions that would have otherwise gone to waste.
WEATHERfx is part of Watson Advertising, whose offerings include a portfolio of media, data (The Weather Channel app and other tools like JOURNEYfx), and AI Tech solutions (IBM Marketing Planner with Lucy, Watson Ads, Bidding Optimization, Audience Targeting) for marketers and agencies.
To be clear, WEATHERfx Footfall is not directly connected to Watson Ads. They are both offerings from Watson Advertising (formerly The Weather Company’s ad sales business). WEATHERfx Footfall with Watson is closely related to Watson Advertising’s heritage WEATHERfx solution.
In general, Watson Ads are AI-powered ad units. While separate from other IBM Watson initiatives like the voice-activated “Watson Assistant,” which was developed outside of Watson Ads, the company has used AI and voice to power boundary-pushing marketing efforts for brands as varied as Campbell Soup Company, Unilever and GSK Consumer Healthcare.
Launched in June 2016 just a day after venture capital analyst Mary Meeker heralded the greater importance of voice-activated interactive advertising in her annual state of the internet report, Watson Ads was billed as the is the world’s first AI-powered advertising creative that leverages machine learning and natural language processing to make sense of unstructured data sets (i.e., “text and voice”), and enables brands to have two-way conversations with consumers.
The role of AI in crafting and automating aspects of the marketing and advertising process will be increasingly felt — and debated and competed for by IBM and its enterprise platform rivals. By rolling out such a wide variety of AI tools for disparate business uses from marketing to agriculture, IBM hopes to solidify its position as offering the machine intelligence that underlies the work that human beings are still catching up on.