Skip to main content

[Expert Insight] The Rise of AI & Human Collaboration


Question: I am questioning whether the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in marketing is a good thing or a potential loss of human connection. Do you have an expert with insights on that?

Answer: At the  Integrate 2019 Conference at West Virginia University (sponsored by WVU’s  Integrated Marketing Communications and  Data Marketing Communications online master’s degree programs)  Jacelyn Swenson of IBM spoke compellingly on this topic. Jacelyn is Leader of Strategic Partnerships and events for IBM Corporate Communications.

Jacelyn started her talk by stating that she believes that AI can be all about connections. She prefers to call it “Augmented Intelligence,” because the word artificial may be off-putting to some. The word augmented implies a helpful presence rather than something that separates humans and machines. She provided several examples of how IBM has encouraged collaboration between AI and humans with impressive and unique results. 

IBM/Marchesa Cognitive Dress — Met Gala 2016

To demonstrate how art and AI can work together, IBM invited the fashion house Marchesa to collaborate with IBM Watson to create the world’s first “cognitive dress” for the Met Gala in New York, 2016. To see a video about the process and the results, search “IBM Cognitive Dress” on You Tube. There you’ll watch Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman work on the dress with Watson on hand to lend insights.

According to “Generally, the Marchesa team use mood boards over a period of some months to determine the look and, more importantly, the feel of the dress. Watson took images of 200 dresses that Marchesa had produced over the last few years and ranked them based on number of colors and the number of times they had been photographed, then used that information to decide on the material and color. Because Georgina and Keren (Craig – the other lead designer on the Marchesa team) are drawn towards a more feminine and historical design, Watson chose a style that was the perfect combination for their brand.”

The cognitive element came in because the dress was programmed to light up in colors coordinated with the sentiment of Tweets coming in at the Gala about the dress. These sentiments were transmitted to a small computer inside the dress’s waistband. 

According to Jacelyn, the cognitive dress earned 750 million impressions, more than any of the leading fashion designers presenting gowns at the Met Gala that year. The dress was covered in  Entertainment WeeklyVogue, and  Vanity Fair – media “gets” that are far from expected for IBM.

Watson’s Forays into Music

Musician Alex Da Kid worked with IBM Watson to write the song “Not Easy,” which reached the Top 10 on the Billboard charts. An article at explains, “Watson uses natural-language processing and machine learning to analyze massive amounts of unstructured data to uncover new insights.” This provided inspiration for Alex Da Kid to write his song. To hear “Not Easy,” search the song title and Alex Da Kid on YouTube.

Visit to see another collaboration between IBM and the music business. In this case, Watson studied tens of thousands of artists and their music to help engage music lovers before, during and after the Grammy Awards telecast.

Another collaboration was for DayBreaker, “The World’s First Cognitive Dance Party.” This was an early-morning dance rave that began with a 6 a.m. hour of yoga and fitness followed by two hours of dancing. As Jacelyn explains, “Watson analyzed the Twitter handles of those who registered for the event and was able to understand the personality profiles to select the most appropriate music tracks, beverages, and cuisine.” Watson also helped manage the dance floor and an AI powered sun that would rise with Tweet sentiments.

IBM and “Hidden Figures”

When IBM was asked to get involved with the movie “Hidden Figures,” a tribute to African-American female mathematicians who were crucial to the early day of the space program, the firm’s leaders were worried that this might reinforce dated stereotypes about the company. Looking at the opportunity through another lens, the realized this was an early example of humans and machines working together. Thus they devised a program aimed at encouraging young, diverse people to get more involved in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). Search “IBM Hidden Figures” to find out more about this motivational program.

This blog was adapted from work originally published in adMarks, the newsletter of the  Chicago Association of Direct Marketing (CADM).

"Ask the DM Experts” is a monthly  adMarks feature. Professor  Susan K. Jones draws on the knowledge of CADM members and other authorities to answer your questions – so tell her what you want to ask the experts! Contact Susan at or follow her on Twitter @sjones9200.