The Weather Company Goes 'Beyond The Banner' With Mobile Ad Units

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Vikram the weather companyVikram Somaya, GM of The Weather Company's marketing insights group, WeatherFX, began his Media6Degree's AdsCON presentation about the importance of data by reciting a passage from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. In a stentorian voice, Somaya read lines about Caesar talking about "threatening clouds" to the attendees seated in a seminar classroom at NYU's Stern School of Business, highlighting his point about the drama of weather.

"See, even Ceasar was worried most about the weather," Somaya said, noting that this concern is also shown intensely by mobile phone users whether getting ready for work, in reaction to news of an impending storm, or even in response to seasonal allergies. And that concern can be measured through data on behalf of marketers.

But what to do with all the data swirling around mobile in an advertising context is still an open question. The Weather Company, parent of the The Weather Channel, is starting to come up with answers. Later this quarter, it will be unveiling new ad mobile ad units that promise to be both more brand-friendly than the common strips at the bottom of a smartphone screen as well as smarter when it comes to targeting those placements.

"News about weather is heavily local, data-rich, social and real-time," Somaya said. "And it's increasingly mobile. During Hurricane Sandy, mobile traffic rose 6,000 percent. Almost 50% of our digital usage is mobile now versus PC."

With those kinds of traffic spikes during what is expected to be one of, unfortunately, many "storms of the century" to come, advertisers across retail need to be ahead of consumers. Somaya touted WeatherFX's data as being able to determine not only who and where to target, but precisely when. "People buy snow tires the day after a storm hits, not the day before," he said. "We work with a lot of allergy companies, so when we see outbreaks, we connect advertisers with those regions."

For the most part, while The Weather Channel's cable network is all about the adventure of weather, mobile users are there primarily for "utility purposes," such as planning for business travel, sports activity or just the workday and week ahead. In order to reflect those mindset differences, mobile advertising needs to do a better job at presenting the creative display ads.

TWC's new formats are not a wholesale reinvention of mobile display (There is still a banner at the bottom of the smartphone screen), but a marketer's logo and "branded backgrounds" now serve like homepage wallpapers for its mobile apps. The new branded backgrounds will launch with the release of The Weather Channel's new Android app in February.

"We're going beyond the banner to allow brands to tell stories through high-quality impactful photography on our mobile applications," Alex Linde, VP for mobile & digital apps for The Weather Company, told AdExchanger. "Weather affects everything -- brands know this -- and we can help them drive results by aligning creative with local weather conditions."

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