AiThority Interview with David Olesnevich, Head of Product – IBM Watson Advertising at IBM
Hi David, please tell us about your current role and the team. Technology you handle at IBM.
I currently sit as the Head of Product for IBM Watson Advertising, a role that was conceived as part of IBM’s vision once the business acquired The Weather Company’s digital properties five years ago. In this role, it’s my job to oversee a team that realizes the high impact advertising solutions at a global scale.
My role allows me to sit in a unique position where our team can leverage the incredible power of IBM Cloud and Watson’s AI to create AdTech solutions for the greater advertising industry. We infuse The Weather Company’s proprietary data assets into our solutions.
IBM Watson Advertising sits at the intersection of all things advertising due to the fact that we’re both an enormous publisher, with The Weather Company’s dual advertising and subscription businesses, as well as an ad-tech supplier who has the perspective of a global advertising brand in IBM.
We’re excited to be bringing forward solutions that will future-proof advertisers and showcase the power of IBM’s hybrid-cloud and AI assets.
How is the post-cookie era shaping up across the advertising landscape and what major changes do you expect will happen once advertisers move past third party data advertising identifiers?
We’ve seen this change coming to the advertising industry for quite some time. First, it was with consumer privacy being address within browsers, such as Safari and Firefox, and now finally Google Chrome.
Personally, I’m looking forward to the innovation that comes as a direct result of these privacy measures and the promise that these solutions can offer our industry to not only address the deprecation of traditional advertising identifiers, but also move our industry forward with user privacy top of mind.
However, there have been developments that are not yet in the best interest of the advertising industry as a whole. Recently Google shared updates on one of its Privacy Sandbox proposals, FLoC, that will operate on Google’s Chrome browser as an audience targeting alternative to the third-party cookie. At surface level, this sounds good, but digging deeper this is a bit concerning due to the fact that Google outright controls the environment, and its FLoC API creates the opportunity for Google to raise the height of its own walled gardens.
Currently, I see a low double-digit percentage of brands who are actively driving their businesses into a place where they will not be dependent upon third-party cookies. I also see a large middle ground where conversations are just beginning to happen, and the initial planning stages are underway. But most concerning, there’s a segment of advertisers who will simply continue to work with the walled gardens out of habit, when there are many highly performant alternatives to explore.
As an extension to those who are stuck behind walled gardens, IBM Watson Advertising views AI as the foundational technology that uses powerful data and deploys predictive models to create its ad-tech solutions, and our approach to AI application is privacy forward not requiring a traditional advertising identifier to be effective.
Ultimately, the industry’s future relies on the trust and overarching transparency among marketers that operate within the space, the publishers for content that is not only life-changing, but also makes for enjoyable digital experiences and consumers.
How is today’s mobile advertising technology landscape different from what it was when you first joined IBM?
The ad tech space is always-on innovation through the supply chain. Over the past several years we’ve seen header bidding emerge and then go open source with Prebid. We’ve seen the application of blockchain to streamline billing and reconciliation processes enabling people to focus on higher value work. We see chatbots deployed across owned earned and paid channels for brands to create new kinds of personalized experiences.
We’ve seen Contextual targeting re-emerge, infused with AI to allow brands to tailor experiences without the use of traditional advertising identifiers. IBM Watson Advertising offers our Accelerator services for Display and Video which makes traditional DCO obsolete and improves time to value exponentially. New ad formats accompany the rise of CTV and OTT and the rise of the Social Media influencer and rapid custom sponsored content.
Next generation Identity Graphs and Data Clean Rooms are being stood up not just by agencies, DSPs, SSPs but also by brands, who are becoming publishers themselves to promote meaningful customer experiences. Despite the exit of traditional advertising identifiers from the ecosystem and associated data depreciation, there is more data produced now than ever.
Tell us more about IBM’s Ad-Tech technology?
IBM Watson Advertising is developing the next generation of AI centric advertising solutions that can not only help marketers with the impending deprecation of traditional advertising identifiers, but also move the industry forward with the same type of impact programmatic ad-buying had years before.
With IBM Watson AI, born from IBM Research, we’ve been able to leverage this innovative technology to impact industries at scale and we’re now doing the same in advertising space. Specifically, we’ve embedded AI in our offering suite and realized the value it brings in the form of weather targeting products, social media influencer services, predictive audience targeting solutions that can be designed per KPI, as well as creative that makes traditional DCO obsolete. We’ve also begun working in areas like contextual and attribution.
The next generation of digital advertisers is going to need a new set of products and services to be successful – our goal is to keep our clients moving their businesses forward.
How does IBM leverage AI & ML applications to improve AdTech services? What is IBM Watson’s role here?
IBM is ushering in a new era of advertising that builds upon the core technology of AI. We’ve found that only 25% of global companies understand the true value of AI and that the technology isn’t widely adopted across the digital advertising ecosystem. As marketers realize the value AI provides and encourage adoption across the landscape, we’re in an excellent position to help redefine the ecosystem as a whole.
This is also a great example of humans and machines working together to drive superior outcomes. IBM has world-class data scientists and best-in-class practices that are deployed on both the IBM Cloud and IBM Watson AI, allowing us to make a seamless entry into the world of ad-tech.
While machine learning is traditionally known for its value at the transaction level, we’ve brought our AI into the demand side ecosystem to further the overall value chain and ensure benefits can be realized end-to-end. Specifically, machine learning is deployed in our Weather Targeting, Predictive Audiences and Accelerator Display, Video & OTT services. Machine learning is also foundational to NLU which to our Conversations services utilize to produce personalized experiences in digital ads.
What are your predictions on the future of AdTech in the live-streaming era?
We see the hybrid advertising and subscription models producing great user experiences, while driving innovation in creative ad-tech and overall targeting methods. This will only lead to increased consumption and simultaneously, increased opportunities for brands to engage with consumers in places where they can capture share of mind.
A technology in advertising that you are keenly following and expect to become a major disruptor in the coming years?
We expect to see a marriage of technology that advances the industry forward and is cognizant of the changing climate. For example, IBM has made a significant investment in quantum computing and advertising could be the next logical space for quantum computing to evolve into.
I also expect to see the use of augmented reality (AR) in online shopping accelerate in 2021. Specifically, the ability to actually take a piece of clothing, jewelry, makeup, etc. and put it on in some regard, will be extremely valuable. Expect to see advertisers (as well as brands) look to tap into this technology more heavily to accelerate e-commerce sales.
Thank you, David! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
advertising and marketing experience. As Head of Product at IBM Watson Advertising, Dave oversees product strategy and execution championing the power of AI and humans to revolutionize the advertising industry. Dave previously held leadership roles at Conde Nast, The Affinion Group and Golf Digest across practices including Advertising, Business Development, Consumer Marketing, Partnerships and Product. Dave holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Nichols College, is an avid golfer, and currently resides in Connecticut with his wife and daughters #girldad.
IBM is a leading cloud platform and cognitive solutions company. Restlessly reinventing since 1911, we are the largest technology and consulting employer in the world, with more than 350,000 employees serving clients in 170 countries. With Watson, the AI platform for business, powered by data, we are building industry-based solutions to real-world problems. For more than seven decades, IBM Research has defined the future of information technology with more than 3,000 researchers in 12 labs located across six continents.