Killer Desktop Apps, Part 1: Weather or Not…

What marketer wouldn’t want a constant presence on her consumers’ desktops? Such a presence is part of desktop apps’ allure. What’s more, these applications provide innovative ways to engage audiences over prolonged periods. A few weeks ago, I began planning what I thought would be a single column about desktop applications and their growing importance in the world of online marketing.

I had a few members of my team help download and evaluate many of these apps: desktop weather, music, instant messaging software, and so on. We quickly realized there’s really too much to cover in one week. So over coming weeks, I plan to share with you desktop app opportunities and innovations.

The first genre of desktop application I’ll explore is weather applications. Unless you live in a place where the weather’s pleasant every day of the year (and don’t live in a place like Dallas, where a slight weather change can turn a 30-minute commute into an hour-and-a-half ordeal), you probably know the importance of up-to-the-minute weather information. For many, Web-based weather is the only way to go.

Our agency has successfully tapped into the online weather category for many clients. It has such mass appeal that, no matter who your target is, you’ll likely find them through the weather category. The two big players in this arena are WeatherBug and Weather.com with its Desktop Weather application.

A little background on each.

WeatherBug

WeatherBug has been around for several years. It grew its user base through partnerships with dozens of local TV affiliates. In Dallas, the affiliation is with NBC5. By allowing local TV stations to cobrand the WeatherBug application, WeatherBug tapped into an easily accessible weather audience and quickly expanded its user base.

An interesting side note: The Homeland Security Office uses the WeatherBug network to monitor environmental conditions and alert it of possible biological attacks.

WeatherBug and its features, from a marketing perspective:

  • Targeting capabilities. Marketers can get demographic/psychographic targeting and geotargeting (which should be highly accurate; if people don’t type in the correct Zip Code, they don’t get accurate weather).

  • Ad platform. It allows standard banners, leader boards, 300 x 250 rich media ad units, and BrandWraps. With the upcoming version 6.0, it’ll offer PointRoll, United Virtualities, EyeWonder, and ClipMart capabilities as well.
  • Highlights. During WeatherBug’s registration process, you’re asked to pick a sponsor (Sponsor Select). “Why pick a sponsor?” you may ask. WeatherBug answers that question as follows:
    1. We get to feed our hungry developers :^)

    2. Helps keep WeatherBug FREE.
    3. You will see no other sponsors for one month (no pops).
    4. It’s simple, just a few more easy clicks and you’re done. No obligation to take advantage of the sponsor’s offer.
    5. Sponsors help pay for the life saving weather alerts millions of users like you rely on.

    I love the way WeatherBug answers this. It gives the advertiser a unique opportunity to own the environment and, with luck, engage the audience for an extended period. We’ve used Sponsor Select for our Go RVing client and seen great results.

Weather.com

Weather.com… well, you know Weather.com. The Weather Channel’s interactive arm has been a mainstay of Internet users since the early days. They may not be in bed with the Homeland Security Office, but the clout these guys bring to the table is significant. Their partnerships include America Online, Yahoo, USATODAY.com, and ABCNews.com, to name a few. In an effort to create a constant desktop presence, they released Desktop Weather in 2001.

Weather.com’s desktop app features include:

  • Targeting capabilities. Desktop Weather offers geotargeting, affinity/vertical targeting (things like interests in lawn and garden, golf, or snow skiing), temperature/weather condition targeting (we used this for a client; if the temperature hits 80 degrees, you see an ad for an air conditioning manufacturer), and time of day, among others.

  • Ad platform. Coregistration opportunities are offered during the Desktop Weather sign-up process. In an effort to support multiplatform advertising programs, the Desktop Weather ad opportunities are consistent with those offered on Weather.com. That includes prominent 300 x 250 ad units that are the only ad placements on the user’s screen. Given this sponsorship model, vertical targeting is the main criterion employed in the Desktop Weather space. It provides an even more effective presence on the smaller desktop platform.
  • Highlights. As someone who suffers from seasonal allergies, I love Weather.com’s Pollen Forecasts. It’s a fantastic service, and allergy medication makers have really taken advantage of the environment.

Both these applications provide users with real value and create environments that grant advertisers a more intimate engagement opportunity. If you’ve used weather-related desktop applications in a unique way or have ideas on desktop applications I should explore in future columns, please let me know.

Join us at ClickZ’s upcoming AdForum and at Search Engine Strategies.

Nominate your favorite product or campaign from July 7 through close of business July 14.

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