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Unilever, Campbell Soup humanize mobile ads with AI-powered voice interactions

The Weather Company is injecting artificial intelligence into a consumer-facing facet of advertising by enabling marketers including Unilever and Campbell Soup Company to leverage its dynamic Watson Ads unit, which lets users ask questions about the promoted product via voice or text.

Unilever, Campbell Soup Company and GSK Consumer Healthcare will be the premier marketers to use Watson Ads, which can be implemented into desktop and mobile platforms. As consumers become more comfortable with artificial intelligence-enabled devices, AI-powered ad units may be the next logical step, especially as they will be able to tailor item suggestions to individuals based on pertinent data.

?Watson Ads humanizes the brand engagement experience between consumers and media,? said Jeremy Steinberg, global head of sales at The Weather Company. ?When viewing a Watson Ad, a consumer will be able to ask Watson questions via voice or text about the product or offering, and Watson?s machine learning and natural language capabilities will allow it to provide accurate responses.

?What we're doing is moving away from keyword searches and towards more natural language and well-reasoned answered,? he said. ?For example, one might ask by voice interaction, ?What can I make for dinner tonight??

?Based on its machine learning and reasoning ability from the recipe data it has ingested, Watson can sort through ingredient and flavor profiles to make recommendations based on the weather, time of day, location and even ingredients users have on hand ? all surfaced via dynamic ads.?

One-to-one advertisements
Watson Ads will enable consumers to ask questions about the featured product via voice or text, promoting a better understanding of the item. If, for instance, an individual is on the fence about whether to purchase a new type of hair serum from a Unilever brand, posing relevant questions to the Watson Ad unit could help sway him or her to a favorable outcome.

Watson Ads leverage technology from the IBM Watson platform, which can understand natural language and consequently interacts with humans in a more personalized manner.

The Weather Company, a subset of IBM, hopes Watson Ads will help marketers use data more efficiently, improve customer experiences, supplement product information and assist individuals in making informed decisions at the point of purchase.

Campbell Soup Company, GSK Consumer Healthcare and Unilever are the first brands to take advantage of this new wave of cognitive advertising, which will likely promote greater brand loyalty due to the ads? ability to offer individualized experiences.

Watson?s natural language capabilities will enable it to provide relevant responses based on pertinent information, such as the time of day or the weather forecast for a user?s city.

For example, if an individual asks a Watson Ad what he or she should cook for dinner, the platform will filter through various flavor and ingredient profiles to make recommendations based on data such as the user?s location and which foods he or she already has on hand.

Watson Ads will pull weather information from The Weather Company?s sources.

A Weather Company executive at the 2016 IAB Mobile Marketplace discussed the importance of brands leveraging mobile advertisements that are both contextual and location-targeted, as current weather conditions have been proven to directly affect consumers? purchasing mindsets (see story).

Benefits for marketers
Marketers will now be able to shift their advertising strategies away from intent-based pushes and toward one-to-one interactions. However, the likelihood for a completed purchase may become higher, since consumers will be able to ask any lingering questions and clarify concerns about a specific product.

Additionally, users who prefer not to call a brand representative with a specific question and potentially be placed on hold for long periods of time will likely be willing to interact with the Watson Ad unit via voice or text.

This will lessen call or messaging volume for representatives, thereby giving them more time to continue optimizing the customer experience.

?IBM Watson?s ability to process and create context from large amounts of unstructured data will help marketers provide consumers with meaningful, true brand and product engagement,? Mr. Steinberg said. ?These engagements surface new kinds of data and learnings faster than ever before, revealing connections previously invisible to human data scientists.

?Because of this, we will see Watson Ads shift the marketing paradigm from strategy informing media to using media to inform strategy. It's not only a cognitive experience for consumers but also for marketers, as we're continuously gathering consumer preferences and turning them into actionable insights. These cognitive ads learn preferences to personalize content and deliver them at scale.?

IBM Watson?s technology has also permeated other facets of mobile retail.

Gifts retailer 1800Flowers is cementing its stronghold on mobile commerce with an IBM Watson-powered gift concierge that uses cognitive capabilities to tailor product suggestions for shoppers (see story).

Although Watson Ads will premiere exclusively on mobile and desktop platforms, the technology will likely make its way toward other advertising mediums in the future, which may include television, connected cars and social media networks.

?While Watson Ads will first run across The Weather Company properties, there's no reason we can't scale the technology to other platforms, providing multiple touch points for consumers,? Mr. Steinberg said.