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Inside Wunderman's 150 person AI Practice
By: Digiday
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Wunderman launched its artificial intelligence division last July with the purpose to help the agency’s clients retain their customers using what it calls “conversational technology.”

Now, it’s ready to start selling its AI solutions with Microsoft. The benefit here is that Microsoft will share Wunderman’s solutions, hopefully bringing in new clients. Wunderman’s AI division is located in the agency’s Seattle office, one of the agency’s 200 offices across 70 markets. According to the company, there are around 150 people — 100 data scientists and 50 consultants — working on designated AI projects.

The WPP agency already has a few clients that are interested, from telecommunications to consumer electronics companies, according to Seth Solomons, CEO of Wunderman North America.

Wunderman’s AI division focuses on using AI to create text-based or voice-activated chatbots and virtual assistants for its clients on four major platforms: Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Google and IBM, according to Robbee Minicola, global lead of Wunderman AI and president of Wunderman Seattle. Wunderman’s interest in AI is tied to the growth of voice, said Minicola. In March, digital agency Rain and tech firms Voicebot and PullString released a study that found that 20 percent of the U.S. population owns a smart speaker.

Wunderman’s partnership with Microsoft spawns from Minicola’s own background. Minicola, left her post as director of global business development at Microsoft to create Wunderman’s AI division, first joining as president of the Seattle office in November 2016.

Right away, Minicola’s relationship with Microsoft paid off, and she secured a partnership with the company to build the agency’s first set of AI solutions for Cortana. Six months later, Wunderman’s AI service launched, and Minicola assumed the position as global lead of the division.

Today, the partnership with Microsoft remains strong and comes with perks. Minicola said Wunderman gets early insights into what Microsoft is building before it launches beta tests as well as the ability to test ideas on concepts within its AI platform.

“It’s super powerful because the space is moving so fast,” said Minicola. “If you’re not with the engineers that build the platform in the [beginning] phase, then what you’re building today is already outdated.”

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This article was published on Digiday.com.  A full link to the original piece is after the story. www.digiday.com
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