IBM starts using Watson AI to buy online media in the UK

IBM uses Watson for media planning

IBM has started to use its artificial intelligence programme, Watson, to plan and buy media in the UK.

It’s something the tech giant has been doing in the US for over 18 months and has thus far delivered massive gains in the performance of its online ad campaigns, according to the business.

Sitting within The Trade Desk – its media planning platform – Watson over time learns how effectively a campaign is performing for different audiences at different times, locations, devices and browser.

Based on this information, it will then only bid on inventory that aligns to any given audience, and even then will consider the size of an ad and how effective it will be in relation to those other factors.

In the US, IBM claims this has reduced its cost per click by as much as 71%, although the average hovers around the 31% mark.

IBM has dubbed it ‘cognitive bid optimization’ and eventually it is hoping to trade all of its digital media this way.

For now, it has Lisa Gilbert as its chief marketing officer in the UK and Ireland to lead the programme in the UK. The marketer began using Watson to plan and buy media earlier this week (23 January), she revealed at an Oystercatchers event this evening (26 January).

It’s a shift Gilbert is more than familiar with having spent nearly four years as vice president of marketing transformation for the company at its New York office before moving to London to steer the ship.

And little wonder that IBM is keen to roll out more efficient ways of planning and buying its online media.

Media and its value to businesses are becoming more widely discussed in the wake of a 2016 that saw the ANA’s revelations of poor transparency around the way inventory is traded serve as ground zero for a string of related scandals, including Facebook’s revelation that it had inflated metrics and Dentsu admitting that it had overcharged clients for years.

Each scandal stressed the need for marketers to take greater ownership of a media relationship many had abdicated to agencies. And it has left some advertisers questioning whether they need to work with media agencies when they can do so directly with the likes of Google and Facebook, while alternative services like Blackwood Seven have seen greater demand.

Positioned as an AI media agency not financially dependent on how much an advertiser spends, Blackwood Seven uses an algorithm to plan and buy media. The model has intrigued many observers, with some even suggesting that AI businesses like Blackwood Seven could become a major threat to their traditional counterparts.

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Jennifer Faull

Jen Faull is deputy news editor at The Drum with a remit to cover the latest developments in the retail and FMCG sectors. Based in London, she has interviewed major business figures including top marketers from Mondelez, Unilever, Tesco, and Lidl.

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