How Location Will Impact The Weather Company’s Voice-Activated Watson Ads

Campbell Soup Company, Unilever, and GSK Consumer Healthcare are the first brands to test the connection of speech-enabled ads via the IBM weather data platform.

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, The Weather Company is introducing voice-recognition advertising.

The first brands to try out the new speech-based interactive ads include Campbell Soup Company, Unilever and GSK Consumer Healthcare.

This new ad format comes roughly four months after IBM’s acquisition of The Weather Company (the data/analytics side of that entity, not to be conflated with the cable TV and consumer-facing website and apps of The Weather Channel, as those two brands now operate separately).

The combination of technology and global scale will serve as the foundation for the Watson IoT Cloud platform, building on a $3B commitment IBM made in March 2015 to invest in the Internet of Things.

As the first product of that integration with IBM, The Weather Company is giving consumers the ability to “have a conversation” with IBM Watson through advertising. People who encounter the ads will be able to ask questions via voice or text and receive relevant information about the product or offering.

The Role Of Location

When viewing a “Watson Ad,” a person can ask Watson questions via voice or text about the product or offering — and where to get it.

For example, when someone asks, “What can I make for dinner tonight?” Watson’s machine learning and reasoning ability 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 served via “dynamic” ads that reflect that real-time moment a consumer is in.

Among the analytics pieces The Weather Company has added to IBM’s IoT enterprise services is the ability to combine meteorological data and location analytics in surprising ways, such as being able to correlate sales of everything from yogurt to tires to specific changes in temperature and atmospheric conditions in real-time, Jeremy Steinberg, TWC’s Head of Global Sales, told GeoMarketing back in March.

“Transforming ourselves and industries is part of The Weather Company DNA,” said Steinberg in a statement for today’s news. “We’ve embraced big data and leveraged it to improve every aspect of our business, from forecast accuracy to ad targeting. Now we’ve set our sights on cognition. We believe human interaction is the new ‘search,’ and that cognitive advertising is the next frontier in marketing – and we’re leading the charge to make it a reality.”

The Weather Company is in the process of establishing the Watson Ads Council, which will include a marketers who will act as a sounding board for the latest ways of leveraging Watson Ads and the use of artificial intelligence for brands.

“We are excited that consumers will be able to engage directly with ‘Chef Watson’ for meal ideas,” said Marci Raible, director of global media and marketing services at Campbell Soup Company, in a statement. “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.”

The Realization of Adaptive Marketing

As Campbell Soup, Unilever, GSK Consumer Healthcare — along with their respective media agency representatives, GroupM’s MEC and Mindshare,  and Omnicom’s PHD — figure out the links between weather, location, and artificial intelligence, the goal is to emphasize context and “amazement” on the part of consumers.

“We often talk about the holy grail of advertising being ‘the right content delivered through the right medium at the right time.’ Watson Ads leverages cognitive computer intelligence to triangulate on all three of those simultaneously based on its understanding of human behavior,” said Adam Gerhart, US CEO, Mindshare. “We’re entering an era of not just computer intelligence but simulated human intelligence that evolves the typical Ad experience and brings our vision of Adaptive Marketing to life.”

Watson Ads will launch first exclusively across The Weather Company publishing properties and partners. Beyond that, the ads are expected to have broad implications for other marketing channels, including out of home, television, connected cars, social media platforms and more.

“Cognition humanizes the use of data as we move from intent-based advertising to actual one-to-one interacting. It also gives consumers easy access to information to make better decisions about their healthcare in real time,” said Theresa Agnew, chief marketing officer, GSK Consumer Healthcare. “We have produced a number of successful campaigns with Weather and value their steadfast commitment to creating a quality advertising and consumer engagement experience for their fans.”

“We are always looking for innovative ways to help brands connect with their audience, and this is truly unlike any ad experience we’ve seen before,” said Craig Atkinson, chief investment officer, PHD USA. “We believe these represent the first steps towards a new era in cognitive advertising, and we’re excited to not only see what the future holds, but be part of crafting it.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.