Martech Interview with Chief Marketing Officer, IBM Watson Advertising – Randi Stipes

Randi Stipes from IBM Watson Advertising talks about the evolving phases of the Martech industry & how it is contributing to this evolution with the help of AI.

“The promise of digital marketing is rooted in meeting consumers where they are and then leveraging the data their engagements generate as a springboard for brand engagement “

1. Tell us about your role in IBM Watson?
I feel like I have the best job at IBM. As Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson Advertising, The Weather Company and Developer Marketing for IBM, I’m fortunate to wear a lot of hats and lead extraordinarily talented teams that are committed to helping customers and consumers use technology to make smarter decisions, drive business outcomes and help propel the world. Watson Advertising is committed to bringing AI at scale to the marketing and media industry–an industry that desperately needs more open, transparent solutions to create a more authentic value exchange. The Weather Channel is one of America’s most trusted brands and the world’s leading weather provider, which means we have a massive responsibility to keep the 330M+ people who rely on us every month informed and safe. I also lead developer marketing for IBM, which is focused on activating the world’s 24M+ developers to use open source technology to drive progress in their organizations and in the world through our tech for good platform, Call for Code.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
When I started at The Weather Company in 2004, our digital marketing strategies looked noticeably different. As the needs of our clients changed, so did the scope of my position. At first, we took a content-centric approach and packaged weather-specific lifestyle and outdoor information for consumer and advertising segments. Given the universal relevance of weather and our audience reach, this was a viable strategy for many years. Ultimately, though, we weren’t fully leveraging our most powerful asset: our data. As one of the world’s largest unstructured data sets, weather is the best example to test the power of AI and its ability to help brands reinforce connections with consumers. We’ve long been applying AI to create the world’s most accurate forecast, and leveraged the technology to enhance experiences across our properties like flu or allergy insights, the COVID-19 informational hub and new suite of cookie-less solutions for marketers.

3. How do you think technology is upgrading the marketing Sector?
Advanced technology, and artificial intelligence in particular, instantly make sense of the massive quantities of disparate data to help clients across industries make better, faster decisions. At IBM, we leverage AI to augment the human thought process at scale — not replace it. The advanced technology is infused into each campaign to maximize our data-driven insights for clients that impact that bottom line.

4. How has a data-driven approach empowered marketers?

The promise of digital marketing is rooted in meeting consumers where they are and then leveraging the data their engagements generate as a springboard for brand engagement.

Our goal is to help brands make real-time marketing decisions, predict consumer intent, create always-on learning campaigns and forge trusted connections to consumers at scale. We couldn’t do any of this without data – or for that matter, AI.

5. Can you explain how integration of AI in marketing has optimized functions of marketing? Can you put more light on the recent addition to the suite of AI solutions?
It’s our obligation to use AI in an open and transparent way to solve the mounting problems that face our industry, from “walled gardens” that prevent data sharing to increasing regulations and expectations around consumer privacy. In response to our industry’s evolving needs and in anticipation of challenges yet to come, we’ve designed a suite of solutions with AI as the backbone to understand massive and diverse data inputs, recognize patterns, make predictions and continuously learn and deepen experience over time–something that hasn’t been fully realized across the digital media and marketing industry.

Now, we’re bringing AI at an unprecedented scale to the industry by evolving our suite of solutions to empower marketers to thrive in spite of imminent disruptors like the dissolution of third-party cookies The Watson Advertising AI Suite, including Conversations, Conversations Builder, Accelerator, Social Targeting with Influential, Weather Targeting, Attribution (beta) and Predictive Audiences, leverages anonymized first-party data to increase optimization while placing consumer privacy at the center.

We’re not forging this new path alone. We’re opening our toolset to industry leaders like Xandr/AT&T, Magnite, Nielsen, MediaMath, LiveRamp and Beeswax to increase AI adoption across the ecosystem and drive future technologies that help reinstate trust in the marketplace.

6. How do your platforms Predictive Audiences & Social Targeting help marketers and advertisers?
Our new Watson Advertising Predictive Audiences product leverages Watson Studio to help marketers progress beyond ‘look-alike’ to ‘do-alike’ audiences to best reach consumers that exhibit similar behaviors to further penetrate the marketplace.

Social Targeting with Influential leverages IBM Watson Natural Language Understanding to help brands select trusted influencers that align to their brand values. As brands look to establish connections with consumers at scale without walled gardens, the solution offers marketers the ability to infuse trust and transparency back into influencer marketing.

7. This Thanksgiving which specific trend around Martech do you think the marketing/tech professionals should be thankful for and why?
The mandate to act with authenticity and purpose. This goes beyond establishing and living our brand values; that is table stakes. By purpose, I mean using technology and data to understand our customers and forge a meaningful relationship. And yes — that includes AI technology to help us digest and interpret the data.

8. What work-related hack do you follow to enjoy maximum productivity?
I’m a big fan of the Eisenhower Matrix for continuous, ruthless prioritization. It’s helped me more mindful about what’s urgent vs. important — both or neither.

9. How do you prepare for an AI-Centric world as a Martech leader?
From healthcare to financial services, IBM has long been a leader in leveraging AI to transform industries. Now, we’re placing a bet on AI to transform the media, advertising and marketing landscape for the better in advance of a major upheaval. I’m an advocate to harness the power of AI and scale it across our industry to evolve the landscape for the future.

I encourage marketers to educate themselves on the value of AI.

We don’t have to fear it, but should embrace it, as AI can help off-load repetitive tasks to ensure we focus on strategic work.

Sometimes, it’s as easy as making friends with the data scientists and engineers across your organization. Take advantage of the free learning opportunities, like the Institute for Brand Marketing in partnership with Adweek, which helps industry professionals cultivate the skills to advance in a fluid marketplace.

10. What are the major developments you are planning, in recent time?
We recently launched Call for Creative, an initiative that offers brands the AI technology needed to act with purpose to help solve challenges across the industry. We armed leading brands with Watson Advertising Accelerator, our award-winning tool that harnesses AI to predict optimal creative elements that drive the highest engagement, to help them accelerate change via cause-based campaigns that promote corporate and social good.

We’re excited about the initial Call for Creative campaign results, as the initiative demonstrates the power of AI to accelerate positive change when used in an open and purposeful way.

11. What movie inspires you the most?
I find The Wizard of Oz inspiring and grounding. I’m a firm believer in relying on a combination of courage, brains and heart to get you through any situation. Plus, there’s no place like home (even in a pandemic)!

12. We have heard that you have a very joyful work culture, so can you share with us some of the fun pictures of your workplace?
You heard correctly! We work hard and play hard and have tried to balance way too many virtual meetings with fun moments too. Lots of trivia, appearances from pets and children. We recently shared our personal “theme songs” and compiled a team play list that rocks.

13. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?
The Weather Channel app gets the most use — personally and professionally. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me for their forecast and my response is always the same: there’s an app for that! Slack to stay connected, Calm to stay centered, and Peloton to stay sane.

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Randi Stipes is the Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson Advertising, The Weather Company and Developer Marketing. In her role, she takes an agile, data-driven approach to deliver measurable results for customers across The Weather Company, Watson Advertising and the Developer ecosystem at IBM.
As Chief Marketing Officer, Stipes is passionate about marketing transformation, having helped build The Weather Channel into the world’s most downloaded weather app, evolve Watson Advertising from a publisher to an AI-driven ecosystem, and devise solutions that help consumers and brands confidently leverage data and technology to make more informed decisions and create a more authentic value exchange.

IBM Watson Advertising is powering new possibilities of decision making, informed by billions of data sources, and enabled by the world's best AI technology.

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