Reopening the Economy: How AI Is Providing Guidance

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Using AI-powered health and economic data, the COVID-19 Risk, Readiness and Recovery Dashboard, provides information at the county level to help businesses and public officials determine when to “reopen.”

As communities take various measures to reopen for business while reducing the risk of further COVID-19 outbreaks, navigating the recovery is daunting. It’s a historic juggling of public health considerations with the need to revive the economy. Business and community leaders are struggling to pilot through a dense fog.

For us at Wunderman Thompson, a global creative agency that specializes in using data-driven human insights to help clients devise marketing, media and advertising strategies, we saw an opportunity to help our clients navigate these uncertain times with AI-powered health and economic data.

Our initial public entry into this work is the COVID-19 Risk, Readiness and Recovery Dashboard. It delivers our first view of the health and economy of this market down to the local level.

We brought years of experience to this project. Our human insights data has long helped us understand at the local level who people are, what they buy by category and frequency, and hundreds of other points of context.

Together with IBM we’ve been able to apply data science and AI to our vast Identity Network, a database of human insights based on thousands of certified data sources, to create COVID-19-relevant risk, readiness and recovery indexes. These indexes are designed to give businesses and community leaders crucial information—including our Predictive Recovery Index that looks forward into recovery timing for communities—that can help them determine a pace for reopening.

We are continuing to develop the Dashboard through private clients’ views, incorporating a client’s customer-relationship management data, business location information, or even vendor and supply chain data to deliver custom insights within their defined markets. We’ll be modeling outcomes, monitoring economic progress in “green shoot” communities—the first to reopen—and undertaking localized marketing and media activation to help restart the economy for businesses and communities.

Eliminating Data Silos

Understanding people and connecting that understanding to business strategy and solutions is part of our DNA, and a minimum requirement for agencies operating in the 21st century. To ensure we were well positioned, we started our own journey to AI with IBM over a year ago. This work has help us navigate away from the position many companies find themselves in today—possessing silos of trapped legacy data and therefore missing important market understanding that can translate into directed business actions.

Of course, like many established enterprises, we had obstacles to remove first before we could create a trusted foundation for analyzing data. It started with modernizing our data platform. Tapping services from IBM’s Expert Labs and IBM’s Data Science and AI Elite team, we upgraded our machine learning capabilities at a pace we couldn’t have done on our own.

Using IBM Cloud Pak for Data, our algorithms can scale across any network cloud, releasing Wunderman Thompson’s data from its silos. That has turbocharged our Identity Graph, which contains anonymized data on 270 million people and $1.1 trillion in transactional data, along with hundreds of other human insight elements.

We have relied on this database of human insights and our machine learning to provide client services such as identifying prospective customers, supporting their existing customers and addressing other business opportunities. Now, these same clients are asking which markets are best suited for recovery actions, which groups of people should be contacted with what sorts of messages. We are fortunate to have the resources to provide guideposts for making these decisions, along with the ability to quickly activate local programs.

With more horsepower to explore and expand our human insights, we’re connecting the dots between the health and economic data in the Identity Network, trusted sources of COVID-19 data and other pertinent data sets. We hope these indexes can help clients, business leaders and public sector leaders gain a clearer picture of where the fog is lifting and the skies are clearing.

Michael Murray is president of Wunderman Thompson Data.

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