Bright Idea: Foresight Is 20/20

| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

When one of the largest food manufacturers in the United States released its cereal TV commercial shortly before the Super Bowl this year, the company was quickly alerted that public focus would not be on the interracial couple depicted in the ad as the company had initially expected, but instead on the couple’s adorable daughter. The company changed its messaging accordingly. A global detergent company with a fall campaign targeting “scent” was signaled that teenagers were posting about the musty smell of Halloween costumes bought in thrift stores. It had time to slip in a targeted message about the odor-eliminating quality of its product. A tablet manufacturer discovered that consumers in Italy and Germany were having problems using certain apps on the product and responded in time to avert a potential public relations disaster.

Hundreds of millions of people interact daily across social media sites like Twitter, Flicker and Facebook, but because those conversations pop up, peak and soon disappear, it’s hard for advertisers to exploit those opportunities. But thanks to predictive technology from Seattle-based Blab, advertisers such as those mentioned above can now scour through countless conversations and diverse media — from blogs to videos — to identify those that are relevant to their brand and predict those that are about to go viral. That allows the advertisers to engage with potential customers while the discussion is still hot.

Blab’s product is called BlabPredicts (blabpredicts.com) and it uses an algorithm that establishes in real time mathematical relationships between key words and associated words to identify clusters of conversation on a particular topic. From one half-hour to the next, it tracks tens of millions of posts to reveal the size, power and evolution of the conversation. Then it identifies the clusters as among a finite set of patterns and, as with weather predictions, compares them to past patterns to determine how the conversation will develop in the next 72 hours.

“Our approach uncovers the nonobvious,” says Randy Browning, who left his position as CEO of brand-focused creative agency giant Publicis in the West in 2010 to found Blab. He now has 14 employees and his proprietary technology is licensed by many multinationals as well as major media-buying agencies. 

 

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