Spotlight: Using the Weather as a Targeting Tool

Weatherchannel screenshotThe Weather Channel has been gathering weather data for more than 30 years. It uses this data to provide weather information to consumers via multiple outlets, including a TV channel, website, mobile site and mobile apps.

It was around two and a half years ago that the company had the idea of offering up weather as a targeting tool to brands advertising across its various channels.

“Weather is the most powerful influencer in the decision-making process; it has a big influence on the products people want to buy,” explains Lindsay Wiles, strategic sales director at The Weather Channel.

“Take last weekend in the UK as an example. It was an unseasonably hot weekend compared to the same weekend last year, which meant that people behaved in a different way, so this provided an opportunity for companies selling alcohol to wrap their brand message around a weather trigger, that was activated when the temperature hit 16 degrees or above.”

To add a degree of sophistication to the targeting, The Weather Channel can mix weather data with third party data from data publishers, or with category sales data, to identify, the optimum weather conditions for consumers to buy in that category.

Demand Side Platform
For the moment, weather-targeting is only available across The Weather Channel’s own inventory, but in June, the company will launch a DSP (Demand Side Platform), which will mean that weather-targeting will be available to advertisers across any inventory available through ad exchanges.

“This will enable us to offer scale at postcode level by plugging the weather trigger into the exchange alongside all the other triggers” says Wiles. “So a temperature-activated ad trigger will serve an ad across our own properties and across all other web properties in a given postcode area.”

Wiles says that brands’ uptake of weather targeting has been great, among the expected users – retail and FMCG brands in particular – but also with some less likely sectors, such as automotive advertisers.

“Car makers like it because they can position their car specs and functional capabilities around the weather; it’s particularly popular for advertising multi-terrain vehicles,” she says. Though perhaps strangely, at the opposite end of the weather spectrum, sports car makers have not yet latched on to the potential of using weather as a targeting tool.

And those brands that have used it, she says, say it works, citing a recent award-winning US campaign from Unilever’s Pantene brand where advertising messages for different variants of the brand were triggered by the humidity content in the atmosphere (since high humidity causes static, so triggering a message for an anti-static version of Pantene). By driving consumers into branches of Walgreens to buy the product, The Weather Channel could demonstrate the campaign’s ROI, and while stats are confidential, Wiles says Unilever were very happy with the sales uplift.

While it may not be relevant for every category or every brand, for some, the weather seems like an obvious welcome addition to the targeting tools available. Dont be too surprised if you start noticing more in-app and online ads for cool beers and barbecues whenever the sun comes out, or weekend breaks when the rain comes down, going forward.