IBM today announced at CES 2020 that it's taught its Watson AI, the artificial intelligence best known for kicking ass at "Jeopardy!" in 2011, how to "predict the optimal combination of creative elements to help drive high engagement and conversion for any given audience." Those predictions form the core of the new IBM Advertising Accelerator with Watson offering, that's supposed to woo marketing companies.
Watson's expansion into advertising follows the AI's previous forays into security, healthcare and many other sectors as well. IBM also offers numerous e services for everything from language processing and visual recognition, to search tools and research assistance. Now it will use those skills to help companies market their products too. IBM said about the Advertising Accelerator with Watson in its announcement:
"The predictive solution from IBM leverages Watson to create campaigns designed to understand and engage consumers while addressing industry pain points like targeting and personalization. IBM Advertising Accelerator with Watson makes AI more accessible to advertisers, to help drive faster predictive models, enhance creative performance, audience discovery and actionable insights. The new solution continuously learns and predicts, helping advertisers to better understand the composition and preferences of their audience to inform future media strategies."
IBM also said that Watson will be able to enable "hyper-targeted advertising," which isn't a phrase one typically likes to hear, unless of course one is in the ad industry. Then it sounds like a dream come true--provided the IBM Advertising Accelerator with Watson is able to deliver on its promises. IBM said it's already partnered with LendingTree, Potential Energy Coalition and "other leading brands" to prove it can.
The company also listed three areas where Watson's supposed to help marketers:
- Anticipation: Predicts the creative elements to drive engagement
- Segmentation: Discovers new audience segments based on message resonance to help expand a message to untapped audiences.
- Revelation: Analyzes each campaign from a creative and audience perspective, extracting insights on the highest and lowest performing experiences.
IBM didn't say when the IBM Advertising Accelerator with Watson is expected to debut. Perhaps the offering's first job will be to come up with a less-clunky name for itself, like someone whose parents gave them a horrible name they were all-too-happy to abandon once they reached adulthood. Maybe in time the AI will even give itself a promotion from the humdrum Watson to the even more clever Sherlock.
Sounds like a more ethical use of processing power than hyper-targeted advertising.
But it does bring to realization a scary prospect
Have you ever had an ad disguised as a legitimate webpage that you were so sure was real?
What if you were unable to navigate away from that "webpage"?
How would you know the difference between DoubleClick/AdWords/Sponsored Content and the real internet?
... OMG IM IN THE AD RIGHT NOW.
If one really wants to get rid of ads, browser add-ons have existed for years that can make that happen pretty effectively. Of course, if everyone did that, many sites might need to move to subscription models to stay in business, or otherwise focus on making their ads more difficult to block, potentially at the expense of usability.