New York—B-to-b marketing took center stage today at the Direct Marketing Association's All for One conference and expo here, with IBM Corp. relating the story behind the story of the IBM data analytics engine Watson, and its triumph over human contestants in February on TV's “Jeopardy!”
The campaign, said Jim Gargan, VP-demand programs at IBM, was to highlight the company's breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and analytics, leverage its ongoing “Smarter Planet” campaign about solving community issues and reintroduce the IBM brand to a younger generation without firsthand knowledge of the venerable software and services company.
“At the beginning, we set up a tone. This wasn't about man versus machine, but rather about the advancement of mankind,” Gargan said. “We wanted people to vote for Watson, not against him.”
To that end, IBM and agency OgilvyOne Worldwide, New York, developed the theme “Let's go, humans!”
IBM contracted with the producers of “Jeopardy!” to stage a special edition of the show at the company's Thomas J. Watson Research Center, in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. The company built a special set and invited two former “Jeopardy!” champions (Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter) to compete against Watson. (The computer's name honors the founder of 100-year-old IBM, as well as his namesake research center.)
The event was supported by print advertising, TV spots on the NFL playoffs, 22 YouTube videos and specially organized “watch parties.” Meanwhile, Watson developed an engaged following on “his” own Twitter and Facebook sites.
The shows, broadcast Feb. 14-16, was one of “Jeopardy!'s” highest-rated, with 34.5 million viewers, and secured for IBM 1.3 billion impressions and $50 million in earned media. Gargan said the “Watson” campaign produced $260 million in pipeline business and $37 million in business closed to date.
“Even though the event took place on a game show, it was motivated by business and strategic issues first,” said Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman-CEO of OgilvyOne Worldwide. “IBM wanted to capture the world's imagination with this invention and drive relevancy by demonstrating how IBM is making the world work better.
“Thirdly, they wanted to sell stuff—things you can buy from IBM, like data analytics,” Fetherstonhaugh said.
Prepping for the contest also helped IBM refine Watson's analytical capabilities, Gargan said.
The machine now is working with Columbia University and the University of Baltimore to refine medical diagnoses and suggest treatments. Gargan said the technology might be adapted to the financial services, traffic control or call centers.