TD Ameritrade: TD Ameritrade Watson Chatbot


Campaign Summary

TD Ameritrade partnered with IBM Watson Advertising to create a banner ad that functioned as a chatbot. This ad was designed to stand out among the many traditional banner ads customers are exposed to regularly. Customers could ask the bot questions or select prompts that would provide additional education or resources on the topic of long-term investing.


Objective and Context:

TD Ameritrade's heritage is as an online discount brokerage, with its roots firmly embedded in trading. Its trading platform was built by traders for traders, and more trades are conducted through TD Ameritrade than any other online brokerage.

But TD Ameritrade was facing a challenge. It is not readily thought of as a brokerage for long-term investing. Fidelity and Vanguard together hold the lion's share of employee-offered 401(k) plans, the most common long-term investing vehicle. As a result, when people start to think about more robust goal planning, they gravitate toward those two familiar companies, which may already hold their 401(k).

The brand partnered with IBM Watson Advertising to use display in an interactive way. TD Ameritrade's goal was to highlight its offerings and create meaningful connections with prospects at scale. By doing this, TD Ameritrade sought to strengthen the brand's association with long-term investing and ultimately drive new quality accounts for the business. Quality accounts are those that meet a certain threshold for asset inflows upon opening.

Target Audience:

This initiative was targeted at adults 45 and older with household incomes of at least $75,000. They were known as the "Empowered" consumers. They are self-directed and confident in managing their money. At the same time, they recognize that they don't know everything and are not afraid to reach out and ask questions. They are lifelong learners and therefore believe that as much as they might know about something, there is always more they can learn. This is especially true when it comes to long-term investing, given its importance and implications for the quality of their lives. They are open to new technology, but they are not early adopters. They believe that technology should serve a purpose and utility, so it was important that this initiative provided a benefit and added value.

Creative Strategy:

TD Ameritrade created a captivating and dynamic interactive experience for the medium. In partnership with IBM Watson Advertising, TD Ameritrade created the first IBM Watson AI-powered ad of its kind for the financial services industry. These innovative ads leveraged machine learning and natural language processing to create a chat-like experience. In this way, the brand could address consumer needs and deliver a one-to-one customized content experience. By leveraging Watson's dialogue capabilities in conjunction with TD Ameritrade's portfolio of tools, education, and support, an easy, welcoming path was created for further consideration and self-exploration of the consumer's planning needs.

Users who encountered the interactive banner ad were prompted to choose a goal they were interested in, such as saving for college. Alternatively, they could type in their own question. The chatbot replied to the inquiry and supplied follow-up prompts to advance the conversation. At the end of the interaction, users were offered the option of scheduling a goal-planning session or opening an account.


Overall Campaign Execution:

The campaign was hosted via dynamic ads on digital media sites including and The Weather Channel app. By leveraging AI technology, the ad unit was able to listen and respond to a user's needs. Watson is able to understand what a user is looking for and drive both brand consideration and engagement.

TD Ameritrade spent weeks training the bot on the company's comprehensive body of knowledge, creating thousands of questions and responses in anticipation of the users' needs. Because of the AI technology, users could ask questions in different ways and Watson would understand and deliver the appropriate responses, actions, and material.

Once users engaged with the first frame of the ad, they entered the expanded state where the conversation would begin. Watson helped the conversation progress by following each response with more prompts and topics for users to explore, helping them remain in the experience. An interactive carousel displayed prominently below the chat experience allowed users to gain a deeper understanding of TD Ameritrade's approach to formal goal planning.

To heighten engagement and add an educational aspect to the ad, content was delivered in several formats, including infographics, videos, and exclusive articles from TD Ameritrade's TickerTape blog.

This was the first year of the campaign and the first year of targeting this newly identified customer segment. TD Ameritrade had previously used chatbots in other initiatives, but the addition of AI allowed the brand to take this campaign to a new, more sophisticated level.

Mobile Execution:

For this campaign, 48 percent of the $500,000 budget was allocated to mobile, as the ad units' functionality, including voice-activated search, was well suited to mobile user behavior.

Results (including context, evaluation, and market impact)

The campaign exceeded expectations. On average users spent more than double the Google rich media interaction time benchmark within the unit. They interacted with the ad for 39 seconds on average. Engagement was also high, achieving 110 percent more user interactions per conversation versus all IBM Watson ad campaigns to date. Conversion goals were achieved as well. There was an online account open rate of more than three times that seen by the rest of the firm during the same time frame.

Categories: Relationship Building/CRM | Industries: Financial Services, Insurance | Objectives: Relationship Building/CRM | Awards: NA Finalist