Business challenge

When one of Australia’s leading drinks brands invested in a controversial TV ad campaign during a global sporting event, Hydra Consulting decided to investigate how successful the strategy had been.


Hydra Consulting used IBM® Watson Analytics™ for Social Media to pull data from social sources and analyze how viewers reacted to the ad, how it made them feel, and which aspects were most engaging.



positive and negative sentiment towards the ad, helping to measure engagement


themes that resonate with the audience, enabling better campaign planning


trends over time, helping to measure the ad’s long-term impact on viewers

Business challenge story

Finding better ways to measure advertising performance

Companies launch TV advertising campaigns for a variety of reasons, and measure their success in many different ways. For example, some common metrics might include the number of impressions an ad gets (which is closely related to the number of people who see it), or the percentage boost in sales that occurs in the days after the ad airs.

However, since TV advertising can be an expensive business, it often makes sense to look beyond the short-term impact and design campaigns that do more than just temporarily increase sales. For this reason, many ad campaigns focus less on direct marketing, and more on brand-building. Their aim is to create a long-term relationship with viewers, often by engaging with them on an emotional level.


Measuring the success of this aspect of advertising has traditionally been much more difficult—but the rise of social media opens up new possibilities. By collecting and analyzing viewers’ comments on sites such as Facebook, advertisers can assess an audience’s emotional engagement in a more accurate and objective way than ever before.

Dr. Darren Oemcke, Director of Hydra Consulting, gives an example: “At Hydra, we work with companies in all industries, and help them with all aspects of their operations. On the marketing side, we have a lot of experience in the beverage sector. So when we heard that one of Australia’s leading drinks companies was planning a new ad campaign on US TV during a major global sporting event, we knew the whole industry would be watching.

“In the days after the broadcast, feedback on the ad within the industry in Australia was very negative: the general view was that it was mostly corny stereotypes and outdated humor. Yet the company that ran the ad identified it as a success because they had achieved their objectives: they got 200 million impressions, and they had seen a significant bump in sales.

“We decided to find out how real viewers had reacted to the ad, to see if we could learn anything that would help us advise our clients on how to build their own advertising strategies in the future. To do this, we needed an effective way to analyze activity on social media.”

Cognitive technologies like Watson Analytics will drive the next phase of evolution in the way we plan, execute and analyze advertising.

Dr. Darren Oemcke, Director, Hydra Consulting

Transformation story

Big data for small businesses

With a relatively small team, Hydra Consulting needed a solution that would make the social media analysis easy, and would not require significant investment in infrastructure or training.

“We do a lot of work with start-ups and small businesses, so we were keen to find a solution that we could not only use for our own projects, but also recommend to our clients,” says Dr. Oemcke. “When we saw IBM® Watson Analytics™ for Social Media, it immediately fit the bill. We can use it to cut into the soul of an advertising campaign in a couple of days, rather than the weeks of work it would take to trawl through data using traditional methods. That means we can offer an engagement analytics service that even our smallest clients can afford.”

The Hydra team proved the value of the IBM solution by using it to analyze the social media impact of the Australian drinks company’s TV ad, compared to an ad broadcast by an American beverage company during the same sporting event.

Dr. Oemcke explains: “We used the solution to analyze social reactions about both ads in the days and weeks after the broadcast. For the American beverage ad, sentiment analysis showed that around 35 percent of viewers reacted positively, and around 25 percent were negative—which shows that people actually cared about the ad one way or another. By contrast, with the Australian ad, we saw much less emotional engagement: 77 percent of the people who reacted on social media had no emotional engagement either way.”

Next, the Hydra team used the solution’s keyword segmentation capability to find out which aspects of the ad were sparking the most conversation, and integrated data from Google Trends to measure the impact on search terms.

“Most of the ad centers around two main characters,” explains Dr. Oemcke. “But there is also an Australian model who appears during the last few seconds, and she retweeted the ad on Twitter. In the following days, there was twice as big an increase in the number of searches for her name, compared to searches for the advertiser. She also got a large number of reactions, while the company’s social media accounts didn’t see much of an increase in activity.”

Watson Analytics helps us translate the real, long-term value of advertising—building a brand that people love—into a language that the new generation of data-driven analysts can understand.

Dr. Darren Oemcke, Director, Hydra Consulting

Results story

Designing more effective campaigns

In the case of the drinks company, Hydra’s analysis revealed a number of lessons that advertisers could learn from.

Dr. Oemcke says: “Watson Analytics for Social Media not only helps us measure viewer engagement—it also shows us what the viewers are engaging with. That’s incredibly valuable for brand-building, because you can see what works and what doesn’t, instantly. So you can change course and refine your campaigns to keep your ads on-trend.

“In this particular case, a smart move might be to reduce the emphasis on the two main characters from the first ad, and give the model a leading role in future campaigns, or bring her on board as a brand ambassador.”

Looking to the future, the Hydra team is excited by the possibility of combining cognitive analytics with marketing automation to shape and pivot campaigns more quickly, and to interact more effectively with groups of customers, and even individuals.

“Cognitive technologies like Watson Analytics will drive the next phase of evolution in the way we plan, execute and analyze advertising,” says Dr. Oemcke. “In the old days, success was measured by impressions—how many people might have seen your ad. When online advertising took off, we moved towards the concept of clickthroughs and likes—how many people had seen your ad and followed it to visit your site or buy a product.

“The problem with clickthroughs is that they’re just about the immediate numbers: they don’t tell you who is excited about your ad, or who is falling in love with your brand. That’s the difference between a short-term sales bump and a set of loyal customers who’ll buy your products for years to come.

“Watson Analytics helps us translate the real, long-term value of advertising—building a brand that people love—into a language that the new generation of data-driven analysts can understand. By quantifying the value of previously intangible aspects of a campaign, we can provide a much fuller, richer view of whether ads are truly effective.

“The next step is automation, which is where technologies like IBM Campaign come in. In the future, we’d love to help our clients build campaigns that automatically analyze the sentiment of responses from different demographics, and push different content to each group depending on their reaction. That’s the future that cognitive analytics can unlock for us.”

He concludes: “Our first project with Watson Analytics for Social Media has been a resounding success, and we’ve been blown away by the support that IBM has given us. They really understood our vision of bringing big data to small businesses, and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with them to bring these advanced analytics technologies to our client-base.”

Hydra Consulting

Hydra Consulting is a business consultancy that works with business and government organizations on all aspects of developing strategy and making it happen. The company provides a “fast start” package to help get new businesses off the ground, as well as engaging with more established clients to help them enhance their product development, leadership, change management, customer engagement and project delivery capabilities.

Solution components

  • Cognos Analytics
  • M&E: Customer Sales and Service Transformation

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