HOLLYWOOD, FL: IBM, the tech giant, is now able to call on the in-house services of "the world's largest digital agency" to help its clients tap into the possibilities of data-driven marketing.

Jon Iwata, IBM's SVP/Marketing and Communications, spoke about this topic at the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 2016 Brand Masters Conference.

More specifically, he discussed the evolution of IBM iX – describing this growing internal unit as both "a well-kept secret" and "the world's largest digital agency".

Earlier this year, iX acquired Resource/Ammirati, Aperto and Ecx.io in the space of a few days. And while each of these shops will retain their existing brands, together they further enhance the capabilities at IBM's disposal.

"With those three acquisitions, that's another thousand or so digital agency experts at IBM iX," Iwata told the ANA attendees. (For more, including insights into the impact of cognitive computing, read Warc's exclusive report: How (and where) IBM's Watson is reshaping marketing.)

Traditional agencies may be concerned that their sphere of competence is being squeezed by yet another rival, but Iwata suggested that modern marketing may, in fact, have moved more towards IBM's area of excellence than vice versa.

"You might wonder, 'What is IBM doing getting into that business?' It isn't so much we're getting into that business as that business is moving more to being digital-data analytic intensive," he said.

"What we have in mind is a capability to help our clients build apps and digital solutions, with creative skills, and then marrying [that capability] with Watson."

And Watson – IBM's cognitive computing service – demonstrates just how a new generation of digital tools might be put to work for brands.

"It is the first system in the world that can reason. It generates hypotheses. It has confidence. It weights its hypotheses – millions of them – instantaneously," said Iwata.

"And, profoundly, it is the first system that is not programmed. It is trained and it learns. It is the first computer system in the world that grows in value over time, versus everything else we buy, which depreciates the minute we get it.

"The last thing you'd want to do with a ten-year-old Watson is to put it away."

Data sourced from Warc