IBM Watson and The Weather Company Are Ready to Launch Their First Cognitive Ads

Campbell's Soup among first brands

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The Weather Company is getting ready to roll out its first ad campaign since being acquired by IBM earlier this year. But for the first brand, Campbell Soup Company, it's featuring the supercomputer Watson as the chef.

Next week, IBM will begin showing display ads for Campbell's on The Weather Company's website with personalized recipes created by Watson and based on a user's location, what the weather is in the area and which ingredients they want to cook with. Using a series of application program interfaces, or APIs—Speak and text, 'Chef Watson' API and a natural language classifier—Watson is able to ingest client data and then develop an experience based on a particular brand.

According to Jeremy Steinberg, IBM's global head of sales for The Weather Company, Watson wasn't initially built for advertising. However, he said, Watson has the potential to create one-to-one experiences for brands and consumers. He said Watson will be able to understand what a user is asking for, think about the answer and then provide experiences related to the brand that are actually useful for the consumer.

"We really believe that this is the new frontier in advertising," Steinberg said. "Watson listens, thinks, responds."

Here's how it works: When a user sees an ad for Campbell's on The Weather Company's website, they'll be able to ask Watson to suggest dishes to make based on they ingredients they say into their microphones. Watson will then in real time provide a list of recipes based on those ingredients, along with a list of the top 10 recipes others are looking for.

Today, during an event at Advertising Week in New York, The Weather Company announced that Toyota will be the first brand in the auto sector. Other brands will launch their own campaigns later this year. For flu season, IBM is partnering with GlaxoSmithKline to promote Theraflu. (For that, Watson will be able to analyze frequently asked questions or various flu symptoms.) Then in the first quarter of 2017, it'll roll out a campaign for Toyota.

Additional APIs could be added to the mix in the future, said Monica Fogg, The Weather Company's head of ad product and brand marketing. That could include measuring social sentiment for brands and reading imagery or video content.

"Watson is really meant to be a supporter of human intelligence," Fogg said. "So they really come together to work together more intelligently, because Watson does act like our brain to some degree. It can just do a lot of that processing much faster than we can."

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.