IBM: WATSON by Ogilvy & Mather New York for IBM

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Industry IT Solutions & Professional Networks
Media Ambient
Market United States
Agency Ogilvy & Mather New York
Director Paul Bozymowski Producer
Executive Creative Director Tom Godici, Greg Ketchum
Art Director Michael Paterson, Miles Gilbert
Copywriter Mark Girand, Steven Schroth, Niels West
Producer Jenn Pennington, Erika Tribble
Released June 2011


Cannes Lions 2011
PR Lions Technology and Manufacturing Gold
PR Lions Best Use of Live Events, Stunts and or Celebrity Silver

Credits & Description

Type of Entry: Sectors & Services
Category: Technology and Manufacturing
Advertiser/Client: IBM
Product/Service: IBM
Entrant Company: OGILVY & MATHER New York, USA
Chief Creative Officer: Steve Simpson
Worldwide Executive Creative Director, IBM: Susan Westre
Executive Creative Director: Tom Godici/Greg Ketchum
Group Creative Director: David Korchin/Jason Marks
Creative Director: Mark Girand/Michael Paterson
Copywriter: Mark Girand/Niels West/Steven Schroth
Art Director: Michael Paterson/Miles Gilbert
Executive Digital Producer: Pierre Wendling
Executive Producer: Lee Weiss
Producer: Jenn Pennington/Erika Tribble
Music Producer: Karl Westman
Director: Paul Bozymowski (@radical.Media)
Production Company: (
Editorial: (Go Robot)
Music: (Pulse Music)
Digital Artist: Joshua Davis ()
Describe the campaign/entry:
80% of all the world’s new data is stored in human language: e-mail, blogs, medical records, etc. But computers understand 1s and 0s, not words. To help make sense of it all, IBM built a computer - Watson - that can understand human language. As an ultimate test of its ability, Watson would compete on the quiz show Jeopardy!, whose difficult clues filled with puns, jokes and wordplay made it the perfect challenge.
The task for the agency was to help people understand why IBM built a computer to compete on Jeopardy.
However, this challenge also presented an opportunity... to make IBM relevant to a broad audience and reinforce their leadership in research and development.
We created an avatar as a public face for Watson and took people behind the scenes, documenting Watson’s progress for two years. We explained the science behind the machine and educated the world about the possibilities of this impressive leap in computer science. In the process, we captured the world’s imagination.
IBM’s Watson became a pop icon - covered by all US talk shows, Saturday Night Live, even inspired parodies - garnering over one billion impressions worth $50 million in earned media.
Describe the brief from the client:
For the first time, maybe ever, IBM had the daunting task of targeting the general public, not just business leaders. The general public has lost contact with IBM since they've sold their PC division and many don't understand how essential IBM is in our everyday lives. We also had to communicate a new, complex computing concept.
Our goals:
1) Capture the world’s imagination by inspiring the world to care about Watson and its capability
2) Drive relevance by demonstrating how IBM is making the world work better
3) Garner positive perceptions of Watson and IBM
1) Captured the world’s imagination
- 70% of the US population was aware of the IBM Jeopardy! Challenge.
- Watson became a pop culture icon: featured on most US talk shows, Saturday Night live, inspired an American Idol parody, and even reached global news programming. In the US alone, Watson garnered over One Billion impressions worth $50 million in earned media.
- Watson was covered in thousands of TV news programs, print and online press ranging from ABC News to Wired. "The New York Times Magazine" featured IBM and Watson in a 10-page cover story.

2) Drove relevance and positive understanding of Watson and IBM
- 40% of the US population aware of the event had a positive change in perception of IBM vs. 1% negative change – proving we minimized the Skynet/HAL comparison.
- Traffic to increased by 556% during the month of the challenge.
We ran an integrated campaign over the course of three months, including:
• Documentaries: Created a video series that documented Watson’s journey through the eyes of the researchers, explained the technology and its implications.
• Social Media: Worked with IBM's Social Media Management team to feed online conversations with posts highlighting events, press and provocative thoughts on technology. Offered access to the researchers through live webcasts on and
• Watson Avatar – Created the public face of Watson to help explain how the computer "thinks" to the Jeopardy! audience.
• Partnerships: Partnered with IBM and Jeopardy! to shape the 3 nights of the broadcast. Created branded videos constituting 20% of the broadcast.
• Promotional activities/PR: Fuelled interest with TV, print, banners, pre-roll, and promos airing on Jeopardy! Celebrated Watson’s win and shifted the public’s focus to IBM solutions.
The Situation:
IBM built a computer named "Watson" that can understand human language. As an ultimate test of its ability, the computer would compete on the quiz show Jeopardy! Against the world’s two greatest champions. This was a scientific breakthrough for IBM. But we also saw it as an opportunity to create a once in a lifetime cultural milestone.
The opportunity was not only to help bring to life exactly why IBM built a computer to compete on Jeopardy! but also to help people understand how Watson represents the future for computing.
The Strategy:
Instinctively, no one wants a computer to beat a human at anything. It’s simply human nature. Fear that computers will replace humans once and for all conjures up visions of the Skynet from Terminator or HAL from 2001: Space Odyssey. But what if people could empathize with a computer? What if they could understand exactly how hard it is for a computer to do anything human? If done right, not only would IBM have a media phenomenon on their hands, but also a massively interesting and inspiring debate about the future of progress.
Our strategy was to take people behind the scenes and get them excited about the science.
We created an avatar as a public face for Watson and we documented Watson’s progress for two years. We explained the science behind the machine and educated the world about the possibilities of this impressive leap in computer science.