Making real meat of data


IBM Watson’s Data-Crunching Gains Traction with Marketing Firms

IBM Watson’s data-crunching capabilities are gaining traction among companies in the marketing space.

IBM Watson’s data-crunching capabilities are gaining traction among companies in the marketing space. PHOTO: IBM WATSON

More marketers are putting Watson to work.

Employing IBM’s artificial intelligence technology has become a popular move for brands seeking to make better use of data in their marketing efforts.

Havas Group this week is officially unveiling Havas Cognitive, a new practice in partnership with IBM Watson, to help clients develop tailored marketing campaigns and products.

Separately, startup Equals 3 on Wednesday is launching a new software product dubbed Lucy that utilizes Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities to make the media planning process more efficient for marketers and agencies.

That follows earlier announcements by Turner Broadcasting, which earlier this year signed a deal to incorporate Watson into its ad sales efforts, and Kia Motors, which used Watson to select social media influencers for its Super Bowl ad campaign.

Watson, which gained fame after beating top human competitors on “Jeopardy” five years ago, analyzes troves of data to uncover patterns that humans might miss. The computing platform is designed to understand and reason like humans and is “constantly evolving and constantly adapting” based on use and new pieces of data, said IBM Watson Vice President Stephen Gold.

Watson is particularly adept at analyzing “unstructured” data such as social media posts, videos and images that exist outside of traditional data warehouses and which now account for the majority of data within an organization.

“In that data is locked away a tremendous amount of insight into what we as individuals are looking to do, how we expect to be treated and the interaction, communication and engagement that we prefer,” Mr. Gold said.

More than 550 different organizations across 17 industries have partnered with IBM Watson to use the technology to develop commercial products, apps and services. About 20% of these partners are working within the “consumer space,” including partners focused on marketing, Mr. Gold said. For marketers, IBM Watson’s data-crunching capabilities can help them create personalized campaigns and messages for target audiences.

“The holy grail for marketing is really to be able to target a market of one,” Mr. Gold said.

Havas Cognitive has been operating in beta for six months, with a core team of about 60 employees that has completed 10 projects so far. The venture uses what it calls “Make” prototyping sessions to help clients test and build AI-powered products.

Havas and IBM Watson last fall teamed up for a digital marketing program for TD Ameritrade around the brokerage’s sponsorship with the National Football League. To boost online brand engagement for TD Ameritrade, IBM Watson used a custom algorithm to analyze social media posts from football fans to measure the level of confidence around fans’ favorite teams in real time. (Posts using a campaign hashtag were picked up.) The data was used to rank and reward the most confident football fans and the algorithm was able to accurately predict the winner of Super Bowl 50, the Denver Broncos, before the game, said Jason Jercinovic, Havas’ global head of marketing innovation

“It’s about finding insights at scale and how do you find the needle in the haystack of big data,” Mr. Jercinovic said of Havas Cognitive’s mandate. Havas and IBM have been working together for 20 years.

Equals 3, a startup founded last year that is also a developer partner of IBM Watson, designed its Lucy software to help Fortune 1000 brands and agencies quickly comb through all of an organization’s data to answer marketing questions through one interface. The software’s confidence in answering a marketing question strengthens the more data it ingests.

Equals 3 is launching a new marketing tool called Lucy to help automate certain marketing processes.

Equals 3 is launching a new marketing tool called Lucy to help automate certain marketing processes. PHOTO: EQUALS 3 “What we’re doing is bringing a level of automation to job functions or roles that previously had not been automated,” said Equals 3 co-founder Scott Litman.

A user, for example, can ask Lucy a question about the type of consumer who buys a particular car brand and the software will generate the best response within seconds based on its reading of structured and unstructured information available.

The software is powered by eight of IBM Watson’s services and is designed to help users conduct deep market and customer research and analyze data to inform brands’ media buys. (Havas Media was a beta tester of the Lucy product, but Lucy is not affiliated with the Havas Cognitive practice.)

About Author

Nathalie Tadena

@WSJ advertising and marketing reporter, Team @wsjCMO, @NorthwesternU alum

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