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Toyota uses cognitive ads from Watson to introduce the Prius Prime

Toyota is using cognitive ads to answer consumer questions about its new plug-in hybrid model.

IBM said Toyota is the latest brand to use Watson Ads, the cognitive ads from The Weather Company, an IBM business that provides weather data and insights.

Toyota’s Watson Ads introduce the Prius Prime, a new plug-in hybrid model that went on sale earlier this year, on weather.com and The Weather Channel app. The ads went live this week and are slated to run through Q3.

A video about Watson Ads says the format allows consumers to have “intelligent, two-way” conversations with brands within the ads.

And because the ads tap into IBM Watson, the platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data, they are also trained to listen, think and respond to consumers’ questions with personalized answers in real time.

A rep said consumers are primed to explore a specific topic of conversation when they click into the Watson Ad experience. In Toyota’s case, consumers are prompted to ask questions like, “What features does Prius Prime have?” or explore common topics utilizing dialog buttons.

“The Toyota Watson Ad is trained with a body of knowledge that is specific to the Prius Prime, Toyota brands and auto shopping behaviors, so we’re always able to stay on topic,” the rep added. “If someone asks something off-topic like ‘Who will win the World Series?,’ they will be redirected back to the topic at hand. The unique feature is Watson’s conversation capabilities, which really humanizes the engagement.”

Since Watson Ads undergo extensive language training, the ad is able to understand the consumer's input and respond to the consumer in ways that sound like natural, human language – and this all occurs within a brand-safe environment, the rep noted.

“Through Watson Ads, Toyota is harnessing the power of AI to engage and educate consumers about Prius Prime – addressing consumer questions, sharing new car information and guiding decision making during the purchase consideration stage,” a release said.

In addition, IBM said Watson Ads act like a focus group that gives brands new, actionable data and insights about consumer preferences, non-intuitive product questions and emerging trends.

“Toyota has an organized system for their data management along with internal processes, which allowed them to recognize and leverage Watson innovation in advertising. They were quick to recognize the benefits of leveraging Watson Ads to not only engage consumers, but also extract valuable insights gained from those interactions,” said Sarah Ripmaster, head of automotive sales at The Weather Company, in a statement. “Because Watson Ads learn over time and get smarter with every interaction, this not only helps educate consumers and ultimately help them make more informed buying decisions, but it also helps the brand itself to understand consumer questions, concerns and interests. Those insights can then inform overall planning and strategies - from product to supply chain management to marketing.”

Saatchi & Saatchi handles creative as well as media planning and buying for Toyota.

This is the seventh Watson Ads campaign to date.

Beta partner Campbell's Soup Company, as well as brands like Country Crock, Swanson and Hellman’s, have tapped into Watson Ads to answer consumers’ recipe questions, while Theraflu and Flonase have used Watson Ads to answer questions about the cold, flu and allergies.

IBM launched Watson Ads in October.

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Lisa Lacy

Lisa Lacy is a senior reporter for The Drum, covering digital and search marketing. Based in New York, she writes about how brands use technology to connect with consumers, particularly as innovations like voice search, digital assistants and the Internet of Things change consumers’ lives forever – not to mention the data these platforms increasingly collect and the security and privacy issues therein. She is a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism. Her bucket list includes riding in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

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