Weather Channel Mobile App Finds Sunshine From Brands On Cloudy Days

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Jeremy SteinbergThe Weather Channel may have taken some heat from meteorologists for naming this past weekend's East Coast snowstorm "Nemo," but doing so was certainly good for ratings and web/mobile traffic. The storm also highlights an issue that its owner The Weather Company has been trying to address since bringing on several digital ad heavy hitters these past few months -- namely, how to attract brand advertisers on a steady basis, rather than during extreme weather events.

As the AdExchanger staff are known to incessantly check the TWC iPhone app several times a day, we've noticed a fairly constant run of cheaper lead gen mobile banners for Big Fish Casino, or imploring users to "tap here to calculate new house payments," with brands like Zillow and digital food delivery app Seamless showing up in between. During the weekend storm, as TWC hit nearly 1 billion pageviews and 213 million visits across all its digital platforms, those ads became fairly infrequent, as Ace Hardware -- a good place to buy a shovel or supplies as a potential blizzard approaches -- appeared at the top of the app fairly constantly.

"We definitely see increased demand from advertisers during severe weather events, but it also depends on the advertiser," said Jeremy Steinberg, SVP, digital ad sales for The Weather Company and one of the high profile digital ad veterans brought on board at TWC during the last few months to help ramp up display sales and increase the role of programmatic sales methods. "We're selling the weather, and weather impacts everybody every day in unique ways - even during good weather, it affects what you do and what you buy."

In other words, Steinberg said, while sunny days may appeal to some marketers more than rainy days, when TWC app usage goes up, there will tend to be a corresponding increase in ads from major brands.

The idea of being able to monetize spikes is something that most publishers are wrestling with these days. And for the most part, the feeling is that they can do better by reserving ads for daily use, rather than trying to gamble on capturing momentary, real time demand from advertisers and consumers.

Mobile apps had more daily page views during Nemo when compared to Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, a TWC rep told AdExchanger. Throughout Nemo, mobile apps averaged 82 million-plus daily pageviews, an 8% lift over Sandy's daily average views as well as a 57% gain over Isaac's daily average views.

The company has made mobile and programmatic particular goals since Publicis Groupe's VivaKi executives David Kenny and Curt Hecht were hired as CEO/chairman and global chief revenue officer, respectively, in the first half of last year. To help that along, TWC has added Steinberg from Fox News in November, and more recently, Thomson Reuters' Vikram Somaya and Sara Livingston from Seamless, who were both tapped to work on WeatherFX, the company's data division.

The company is quick to note that it has been attracting more brands to its mobile apps and to its programmatic appeals. Some of the mobile apps' weather-specific advertisers are Walmart, Farmers Insurance, State Farm, Travelers Insurance, Ace Hardware, Home Depot, ING Direct, Metlife and Progressive Casualty Insurance Company. But getting them to advertise during brighter days, especially as winter winds down the next few weeks, will be the big challenge, especially as it comes to building up mobile.

"Mobile is already a big business for us," Steinberg said. "But yes, as mobile matures, we absolutely expect the amount of brand ads on mobile to increase. We're launching new ad formats in the coming weeks which we think will bring even more premium brands on to our mobile platforms. Mobile is a huge priority for us and we definitely expect growth in this aspect of the business."

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