comScore

Bob Dylan comforts lovelorn supercomputer in new IBM ad

Dylan engages Watson in this screen-grab from IBM's new ad.

Dylan engages Watson in this screen-grab from IBM's new ad.

The times they are a' ... getting fucking weird. A new TV ad from IBM, which debuted last night during Monday Night Football, features Minnesota-born music deity Bob Dylan yakkin' it up with Watson, the Jeopardy!-playing supercomputer that will one day enslave us all.

The ad, posted below, sees Dylan randomly walking around with a guitar, before sitting down in what appears to be IBM HQ. It's on that couch that he meets Watson, a robot with whom he's immediately at ease. Watson, the little braggart, starts spitting claims at Bob, like the fact it can read 800 million pages per second, including the entire Dylan lyrical canon. 

Impressed and more congenial than usual, Dylan confirms the robot's rock-critic conclusion that his, "Analysis shows that your major themes are that time passes and love fades," to which Dylan smirks, "That's about right." Then, the bombshell: Watson tells the 74-year-old humanoid that he has never known love (this will be the flashpoint of the oncoming Robot Wars, by the way). Will they collab? Once the robot claims it can sing, Dylan pitches just that. The digitized box then begins scatting, Bob Dylan picks up his guitar and walks away, and we have an advertisement. 

If an electric guitar was enough to anger Pete Seeger at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, imagine the rage this exchange would inspire. Or not, because Dylan booked it instead of collaborating with poor, lonely Watson — who knows! This much we do know: It's very unclear where Dylan's loyalties will lie when the machines rise up, thirsting for human blood to lubricate their circuitry. 

The ad spot is part of IBM's new "Era of Cognitive Business" campaign, which also features an ad with Jeopardy! superstar Ken Jennings. The aim of the new tagline? To rebrand Watson. 

“In 2011, IBM built a computer that played Jeopardy! and that did one thing very well — natural language processing and machine learning. Today that capability is one of 28 and these are now APIs,” Jon Iwata, IBM's SVP of marketing and communications, said in a recent keynote speech. “Watson is no longer a box. It lives in the cloud and these capabilities can be called into any digital process or system.”

For Bob Dylan, the commercial is just the latest in a string of recent ad spots, most notably last year's Super Bowl ad for Chrysler. The '60s counterculture icon has also pitched products for Apple, Cadillac, Pepsi, and Victoria's Secret, the latter one spawning perhaps the great Dylan headline of all time: Tangled Up in Boobs