IBM Design & Branding WATSON by Ogilvy & Mather New York

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Industry IT Solutions & Professional Networks
Media Design & Branding
Market United States
Agency Ogilvy & Mather New York
Executive Creative Director Tom Godici, Greg Ketchum
Art Director Miles Gilbert
Released February 2011


Caples Awards 2011
Technique Creative use of technology Bronze

Credits & Description

Category: Offline Digital Design
Advertiser: IBM
Product/Service: IBM
Date of First Appearance: Feb 14 2011
Entrant Company: OGILVY & MATHER, New York, USA
Chief Creative Officer North America: Steve Simpson (Ogilvy)
Worldwide Executive Creative Director IBM: Susan Westre (Ogilvy)
Executive Creative Director: Tom Godici/Greg Ketchum (Ogilvy)
Group Creative Director: David Korchin/Jason Marks (Ogilvy)
Senior Copywriter: Niels West (Ogilvy)
Art Director: Miles Gilbert (Ogilvy)
Digital Artist: Joshua Davis
Media placement: Watson Digital Avatar - Jeopardy! Gameshow - ABC - 14 February 2011

Describe the brief from the client
In an impressive leap for science, IBM designed a computer named Watson that was capable of understanding natural language. As an ultimate test of its ability, the computer would compete on the quiz show Jeopardy! against the world's two greatest champions.

In order to answer questions as fast as humans, the system that powers Watson runs on 2,880 processor cores. These wouldn’t fit very well behind a Jeopardy! podium, so IBM approached us with the task of creating a visual representation of Watson for the stage.

What kind of image could represent a computer nearly capable of human thinking?

Describe the challenges and key objectives
We wanted the visualisation to help explain how Watson “thinks” to the audience.
At the same time, we wanted the computing system to look friendly and approachable to help counteract the fear many people have of computer intelligence thanks to movies like “2001” and “The Terminator.”

What’s more, during the Jeopardy! broadcast the Watson visualisation would only be on camera a few seconds for every answer. This meant the visualisation had to accomplish everything we wanted in an instant.

Describe how you arrived at the final design
Our solution was to create an abstract piece of generative art that took cues from the existing Smarter Planet icon campaign. The Watson avatar made use of colour, speed, and shape to convey almost everything the computer was going through during a Jeopardy! game. Instantly, the avatar was able to reflect ideas of computer intelligence and even emotion.

Different colours were also used to show the audience how confident Watson was in an answer, with orange showing low confidence and green showing high.

Give some indication of how successful the outcome was in the market
• Watson’s avatar became a pop culture icon: featured on the front page of along with nearly all the US talk and night shows, including “Conan,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and “Late Show with David Letterman.”

• As the public face of Watson, the avatar inspired everything from an American Idol parody to a video advertising a children’s book.

• 40% of the US population aware of the event had a positive change in perception of IBM vs. 1% negative change – proving we minimised the Skynet/HAL comparison.