IBM’s Watson Influenced Kia’s Picks for Super Bowl Social Influencers

To develop a game plan for its seventh Super Bowl ad campaign, Kia Motors relied on hard-hitting software to select a roster of social media influencers to promote its Super Bowl ad, starring actor Christopher Walken. The automaker handed off the choice of social media influencers to IBM’s artificial intelligence software known as Watson, which is notorious for defeating the top human competitors on “Jeopardy.” Kia picked Watson for its ability to filter through the language used on social media to find the social influencers who possess characteristics the brand believed would appeal to its target audience. revealed more about Kia’s strategy to add social media influencers to the all-star lineup for its Super Bowl ad.

Play-by-Play of the Super Bowl Ad

The TV ad by agency David&Goliath, titled “Walken’s Closet,” uses a colorful sock in a man’s boring, beige wardrobe to serve as a metaphor for how the fun Kia Optima stands out among a sea of boring cars.

In the ad, a man enters his beige-filled closet to find Christopher Walken with a beige sock on one hand and a colorful sock on the other. The actor then gives a speech about people who stand out compared to those who blend in. The 60-second ad will run during the third quarter of the game.

Retrieving the Right Influencers

For the social media leg of its Super Bowl campaign, Kia collaborated with Influential, a social media firm that connects marketers to popular personalities on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. To pinpoint additional influencers for the campaign, Kia also tapped sock-maker Stance and Twitter-owned Niche, the network for social media creators.

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Then, Kia used IBM’s Watson software to tackle countless social media mentions to search through the words used by popular influencers. This is because studies show that word choice tends to reflect an individual’s personality traits. By filtering through these words, Kia was able to select the social influencers with personality traits ideal for their market and message, such as achievement-oriented and openness to change.

One of the social media stars selected was actor James Maslow, who has amassed more than 3 million Twitter followers. Another was musician Wesley Stromberg, with 765,000 Twitter followers. And the last was musician Drew Chadwick, who has 452,000 Twitter followers.

Watson software typically has been used to help large corporations analyze data, as well as aid doctors in understanding volumes of medical information. But recently, Watson has started being used by a number of consumer-focused industries, from retail to hospitality. And now, by using Watson to help sell sedans to the mass market, Kia is further demonstrating Watson’s value at the consumer level.

Social Influencers Are Now Marketing MVPs

Today, influencer marketing is hotter and hipper than ever. It’s now natural for brands to give sneak peaks of ads to build buzz on digital channels. This is especially common with Super Bowl ads, whose high costs demand maximum exposure to be well worth their multi-million dollar price tags. For example, CBS is commanding up to $5 million for just 30 seconds of airtime during the big game.

And software like Watson is proving to be valuable and vital in helping brands choose the right social influencers to serve as brand ambassadors. By picking the very best team of social media influencers, brands can score the buzz and business they need to achieve their marketing goals.


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