Havas Media is going through a brain change thanks to IBM and Watson developer Equals 3.
While Havas’s relationship with IBM goes back for decades, it was mostly on the creative side. But Havas Media has over the past year been installing and training a Watson-powered artificial intelligence (AI) solution – in the form of Equals 3’s Lucy – to provide insights and eventually improve media-buying efficiency and effectiveness.
AI previously wasn’t client-ready enough to demonstrate an advantage for Havas’ media-buying process, said Peter Sedlarcik, head of business insights and analytics at Havas Media Group. Nor would Havas have been able to use AI without devoting a lot of time, resources and investment.
But AI is becoming such a part of the lingua franca, it’s now a focus for many enterprise tech giants. Microsoft, for instance, started its Cognitive Services unit, and Google now offers machine-learning APIs.
“The big boys are spending a lot of money and training because AI is all about how you dig data and train the machine to understand the data,” said Rahul Singhal, chief product officer at Equals 3 and a former program director at IBM Watson. “It’s come to a point where it’s mainstream, and you see companies like us and others really drive AI technologies.”
To Sedlarcik’s surprise, Havas could quickly integrate both proprietary and syndicated data streams into Lucy, so its analysts could bake the AI solution into their processes with relatively little development time.
At the same time, Havas Media’s staff needed to learn how to interact with Lucy.
“As odd as this may sound, we’ve had to learn to treat Lucy and the AI technology as a person on our team who is brilliant,” Sedlarcik said. “There’s a lot of information in her brain – but in order to pull the best out of them, you need to meet her halfway and figure out how to ask the right question and frame things in a way that will draw out the best.”
Most software has a fixed deliverable. If you input a formula into Excel, you know the type of answer you’re going to get. But Lucy’s answers evolve as the AI brain learns and it receives more training from human users.
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