In-Car Advertising: GM, IBM Pair Watson and OnStar to Deliver Brand Messages

General Motors and IBM today announced a partnership to bring the power of OnStar and IBM Watson together to create OnStar Go.

General Motors and IBM today announced a partnership to bring the power of OnStar and IBM Watson together to create OnStar Go. Credit: General Motors

Watson’s next marketing move? He wants to ride shotgun.

General Motors and IBM today announced a partnership that combines Watson’s cognitive abilities with GM’s OnStar service to deliver personalized brand messages to drivers. The program, called OnStar Go, will deliver location-based information covering fuel, hospitality, entertainment, restaurants and other topics. ExxonMobil, Glympse, iHeartRadio, Mastercard and Parkopedia are the first brands to join the program, according to GM.

For example, ExxonMobil will use the so-called cognitive mobility platform to help drivers quickly locate Exxon and Mobil retail fuel stations and even authorize payment from inside the vehicle. iHeartRadio will curate local content from radio stations across the U.S. Mastercard will “enable drivers and passengers to safely make simple, secure and seamless payments for goods and services from the comfort of their cars,” according to GM.

The automaker stated that the new capabilities will be available by the end of 2017 in more than two million 4G LTE connected vehicles and millions of GM vehicle brand app-enabled mobile devices. Users must opt-in to the service. Then, Watson “will learn the driver’s preferences, apply machine learning and sift through data to recognize patterns in their decisions and habits. This information will allow brand and marketing professionals working with IBM and OnStar to deliver individualized location-based interactions that directly impact their target audiences,” according to the statement.

“IBM and GM are changing the whole notion of where valuable, daily rituals occur. The combination of IBM Watson and industry-leading OnStar connectivity will enable vehicles with intelligent branded skills and services to empower drivers and passengers,” Paul Papas, Global Leader-IBM iX, said in a statement.

IBM and GM cited potential uses such as reminding a driver to pick up diapers at a pharmacy a few miles before his or her exit, or providing dining recommendations from celebrity chefs if a driver enters a new city.

“On average, people in the U.S. spend more than 46 minutes per day in their car and are looking for ways to optimize their time,” Phil Abram, executive director-GM connected products and strategy, said in a statement. “By leveraging OnStar’s connectivity and combining it with the power of Watson, we’re looking to provide safer, simpler and better solutions to make our customers’ mobility experience more valuable and productive.”

IBM’s Watson and GM first joined forces earlier this year on an ad campaign that evaluated how positive people are on social media. Watson’s technology “uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data,” according to IBM. The growing partnership with GM is latest example of how IBM has integrated Watson into campaigns for other brands. Last year, Watson made Ad Age’s “Creativity 50” list.

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About Author

E J Schultz

E.J. Schultz is the Chicago Bureau Chief at Advertising Age and covers beverage, automotive and sports marketing. He is a former reporter for McClatchy newspapers, including the Fresno Bee, where he covered business and state government and politics, and the Island Packet in South Carolina. His journalism awards include a 2012 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for best range of work by a single author and a 2011 Best in Business award for a feature story from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. A native of Cincinnati, Mr. Schultz has an economics degree from Xavier University and a masters in journalism from Northwestern University.

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