The Weather Company debuts interactive ad solution based on IBM Watson

The IBM-owned business has already inked deals with three global brand giants for its new Watson Ads offering, which allow consumers to interact through voice and text

Example of The Weather Company's push notifications
Example of The Weather Company's push notifications

IBM-owned The Weather Company is launching Watson Ads, a new ad tech solution that utilises machine learning to give consumers an ability to interact with digital advertising.

In what the vendor claims is the first consumer use of its cognitive computing technology for advertising purposes, Watson Ads will allow advertisers to produce display ads that invite consumers to interact through voice and text with a product or service offering.

The Weather Company has confirmed three brands - Campbell Soup Company, Unilever and GSK Consumer Healthcare – will be the first to take up the new ad solution when it launches later this year.

As an example, the media company said a consumer could ask through natural voice recognition what they should make for dinner that night. Watson will then provide a data-driven response using a combination of machine learning and reasoning ability from datasets ingested by the system.

“The dawn of cognitive advertising is truly a watershed moment. Now as part of IBM, we have even more tools and technologies at our disposal to inspire innovations within advertising, artificial intelligence and storytelling,” said The Weather Company’s general manager, consumer products, Domenic Venuto.

“This is a huge opportunity to expose consumers to all of the surprising and delightful experiences that Watson has in store for them - and to make advertising a truly valuable interaction for both our fans and our marketing partners, which is always our goal.”

The Weather Company intends to create the Watson Ads Council, which will work closely with marketers and act as a sounding board for latest innovations leveraging Watson Ads and cognitive advancements in advertising.

“While in this increasingly cluttered world it is getting harder and harder to breakthrough and engage people, technology is helping to find ways to connect with more relevant content,” said Unilever's CMO, Keith Weed. “This will help us to create better, more engaging content that matches our consumers’ interests and unique preferences.”

Unilever and GSK have not confirmed which specific brands will debut Watson Ads first.

“We are excited that consumers will be able to engage directly with Chef Watson for meal ideas,” added Campbell Soup Company's director of global media and marketing services, Marci Raible. “Chef Watson will take into account a person’s local weather, time of day and location as well as ingredients they have on hand to offer tried and tested recipes from Campbell’s Kitchen. Using the data to offer quick and easy meal solutions in real time is exactly the experience we are looking to drive with consumers.”

IBM acquired The Weather Company last October, a decision its CMO of Commerce, Social and Mobile, Maria Winans, recently told CMO was twofold: Firstly, for its data platform, the second-largest local services platform after Google; and secondly, because of the opportunity weather location data presents to marketers, the supply chain and wider business teams. The company delivers up to 26 billion forecasts daily for 2.2 billion locations.

"Initially this was a partnership, but then we saw there was a lot more than just leveraging that data and in that the platform, so we acquired them," she said during the recent IBM Amplify conference.

As a starting point, The Weather Company’s data has been brought into IBM’s Marketing Cloud as event data within its Journey Designer feature, allowing marketers to further contextualise and personalise campaigns.

"By bringing this into our platform, we are providing marketers with more contexts and triggers to personalise campaigns and journeys," Winans commented.

IBM is also looking to bring Watson capabilities to its wider marketing technology and ecommerce proposition. At its annual IBM Amplify conference in May, the company revealed plans to embed cognitive initially in two ways. The first is through Real-Time Personalisation within the IBM Marketing Cloud (formerly Silverpop) using cognitive Rule Adviser, which employs machine learning to learn, advise and suggest the offer and message that should be shared with digital customers.

The second application is in IBM’s Commerce platform through Commerce Insights, which provides users with a real-time view on how products and categories are performing online.

Watson Ads will launch first exclusively across The Weather Company properties, but the company said expected to have broader implications for other marketing channels, including out-of-home, television, connected cars and social media platforms.

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