New Weather Channel CEO Kenny Discusses His New Role And The Opportunity Ahead

David Kenny of Weather ChannelToday, The Weather Channel Companies announced that David Kenny, former President of Akamai and CEO of Publicis agency Digitas, would become its Chairman and CEO and succeed Mike Kelly who will remain as a special adviser to Kenny and the Board. According to a press release, the owners of The Weather Channel Companies (Bain Capital, The Blackstone Group, and NBC Universal) said: “David brings a strong leadership background having served as chief executive at global companies across different aspects of the media industry. This experience gives him a deep understanding of the TV and digital business, and he has the leadership experience and vision to drive global initiatives across all platforms.” Read more.

Kenny discussed his new role and the marketing and advertising opportunity ahead. Why move to The Weather Channel and the sell-side?

DK:  Listen, I love brands. I love to create a product. I love convergence. This has a foundation in all of that. To me, it’s just a great place to use my creative muscles as well as my analytic muscles because we’ve got both science and programming here. So it’s a very rare, cool opportunity that fits me quite well.

I would say advertisers need new solutions and need media to evolve. They need platforms to work across all screens. And I’d like to continue being a pioneer.

Considering your background in the agency world, can you see bringing agency services in-house to The Weather Channel?

I think we need to keep building out the content side and engaging the audience and making it a deeper relationship. So I’m going to focus on that. Advertisers and their agencies will find ways to work with us to act as our platform. But I don’t think we have to disintermediate anybody. I don’t think we need growth out of somebody else’s backyard.

I’m a believer in agencies. We work well with them and will continue to do so, as opposed to compete with them.

Even though we’re early into your tenure there, what would you say marketers need these days in terms of an advertising opportunity with a partner like Weather Channel?

I’m heading up to New York in the next two days to go immerse myself with our advertising team and understand what they’re seeing right now. So I’ll have a better answer in a couple days. But I would say, because I was on the advertising side for such a long time, there are real needs for local. The Weather Channel solves local in real, sustainable technical ways. There are real needs to be able to follow people from screen to screen, because advertisers want to buy an audience, not just a property.

The fact that we have these engaged users using us across their tablets, phones, televisions, sometimes in their cars and on their PCs – the fact that we’re with them in so many different ways gives us a chance to market to an audience rather than market individual screens.

Also, there’s a need for creativity and new kinds of units that are grabbing attention. People are just facing so many ads out there right now. And here, there’s been innovations using the weather itself as a part of the ad.

There are weather‑dependent products ‑‑ which range from ice cream to gardening hoses ‑‑ where those advertisers actually need the weather as a part of the ad. They need the weather to determine which version of the ad to show. Again, we’ve got all of that.

There is a whole B2B side to The Weather Channel that has to do with the best science. I think that matters, too, because brands that want to be the best in their field, also want to associate with a high integrity, professional product. The professional side to us gives us an unspoken amount of credibility that matters to advertisers. They do care about the context in which their ads are seen.

Regarding your experience at Akamai, how will it come in handy with your new responsibilities at The Weather Channel?

There are two things that I learned from Akamai that helped me get ready for this job.

One is how to manage a culture that is both creative and scientific, because I understood creative people very well but Akamai is filled with computer scientists who are the best in the field. The Weather Channel is filled with the very best meteorologists in the world. There’s also technical know‑how in the way we work in order to be able to deliver local cable and the way we work to be able to deliver to these devices. So, the fact that I learned how to manage and motivate a technical organization and a scientific organization is helpful because we have both. It’s important that I am inspiring the scientists as much as the creative talents.

Secondly, at Akamai I was in the center of how “the cloud” works, what it means when media moves into the cloud and across all of these new devices. That’s important because at The Weather Channel we define ourselves as having a special bond with our users that they rely on to plan their day and to keep themselves safe. Knowing how to do that technically and how the cloud helps make that happen, will help us continue to be innovative in the way we reach our audience.

Does your Yahoo board member seat remain? Are you staying there?

Yahoo found out about this the same time you did. So we don’t see a conflict at The Weather Channel but I think this is a discussion to have and make sure everybody is comfortable. There is nothing between the companies. They’re separate. But I’m a good director at Yahoo. If [CEO Scott Thomposon] needs me there, I will stay there as a director.

By John Ebbert

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