IBM Shows Off Artificial Intelligence in New Watson Spots

IBM Corp. is rolling out two new TV ads during the U.S. Open this week to showcase its cognitive computing system Watson. The spots feature startups that are using the platform to build apps serving industries from healthcare to travel to retail.

Watson, which is named after IBM’s founder Thomas J. Watson, was introduced to the public in 2011, when a computer powered with the artificial intelligence technology competed on the “Jeopardy” game show (and won).

Last year, IBM formalized a Watson Group business unit — pumping $1 billion into its development — and it promised to set aside $100 million to seed companies that are developing mobile apps with the technology.

The new TV ads show off some of the fruits of this funding effort, featuring startup companies and IBM’s own businesses that are using Watson’s artificial intelligence technology.

The newest spot, which will air this weekend during the U.S. Open tennis tournament on ESPN, showcases Watson Health, a healthcare business of Watson Group. The commercial is narrated by a computerized voice, which says, “My name is Watson. I’m helping doctors keep people healthy.”

It shows a runner named Ted, and how a mobile app is monitoring his health through data collected from wearables, health records and family history to analyze his progress.

“He’s doing everything right — for the most part,” the Watson computer voice says, as Ted finishes his run with an ice-cream cone.

“Watson humanizes the cognitive technology a little bit, and the Watson voice is a key element of the spots,” said Ann Rubin-VP branded content and global creative at IBM.

“A lot has happened since ‘Jeopardy,'” she said. “We wanted to help a broader audience understand how companies across a range of industries are applying cognitive technology today, and are using Watson capabilities to help transform their businesses and industries.”

A second spot (below), which debuted Wednesday, features startup companies that are using Watson AI technology to develop apps and products.

For example, digital healthcare company Welltok has designed an app called CafĂ©Well Concierge, which gives people personalized recommendations based on their health data, and educational company CogniToy has developed a dinosaur toy based on AI that answers children’s questions and learns along with them.

The ads were created by Ogilvy Worldwide, New York. The budget was undisclosed.

Ms. Rubin said the U.S. Open makes sense as a media buy, because it reaches IBM’s traditional audience of tech buyers, but it also reaches people who use technology and are influential in the buying process.

“Technology decisions are no longer just happening in the C-suite with the IT guys,” she said. “For us, when talking about TV, you are reaching people who are not actively buying the technology infrastructure, but people who are part of the decision-making process, and they are watching tennis.”