Rain or Shine, Weather-Triggered Advertising Is Fine

I’m an East Coast gal, used to the four seasons. With the joys of summer behind me, I find myself thinking even more about the weather, its impending fluctuations, and what these will do to my plans — as well as my mood. With respect to this column, that got me thinking about weather-triggered online advertising. I dug up some interesting stuff.

There are two primary forms of weather-triggered advertising: advertising on or through one of the primary providers of online weather forecasting (Weather.com, WeatherBug, AccuWeather, or Weather Underground) and ads that appear on non-weather Web sites that are specifically triggered and served according to the weather forecast in the user’s region.

Why advertisers ought to consider advertising through weather providers seems obvious: reach and popularity. Like checking email, the weather is something nearly everyone cares about. It affects daily life: how you dress, what you plan to do, where you plan to go, and how you’ll spend your time. Therefore, online weather properties attract a broad, loyal audience. Weather properties reach 3.3 million to 30.9 million monthly unique visitors. Their partnerships with other entities further expand their reach and brand.

Though loyal, the weather audience doesn’t come to read articles, so they’re more open to view and react to ads. They get what they come for and move on. Quips Weather Underground‘s media kit, “We’re not a sticky site and we’re proud of it.” Weather advertising hits an audience when the timing’s right, particularly ads triggered by weather conditions. Snow in the Northeast? Northeasterners might see an ad for a snow blower, and they’re ready to click.

Weather offers advertisers powerful targeting capabilities. Besides the obvious ones, such as by geography or weather conditions, weather sites can also target by IP address, keyword, daypart, day of week, airport code, language, and national versus international. Weather Underground can get very granular in its targeting, down to a Zip or postal code location, or weather conditions such as UV index or air quality.

Combine these targeting capabilities with some unusual advertising opportunities (along with traditional ones) and plain ol’ weather doesn’t seem as boring. WeatherBug, for example, offers BrandWrap, delivering an advertiser’s brand message wrapped around the WeatherBug dashboard, which 50 percent of its users choose to launch upon start up. Weather.com offers a Flash-based Adaptor ad through which an advertiser can dynamically contextualize its ad message based on the user’s location and weather conditions. AccuWeather just launched an Interactive Media Center for streaming video into which it can incorporate :15 or :30 video ads. Most weather sites quote a minimum ad test buy-in at $10,000.

Weather properties haven’t been asleep at the wheel when it comes to mobile advertising, either. AccuWeather is the exclusive weather provider for subscription service AvantGo. Weather.com has partnerships with the major cellular carriers and offers one-month logo sponsorships. Weather Underground offers text-only sponsorships. WeatherBug has sponsorship opportunities, too.

Judging from new developments at weather sites, there’s a move to increase content to attract more users. This, interestingly, might lead to longer session lengths and, ultimately, additional ad inventory. In January 2006, Weather.com launched its Wedding Planner section, playing on weather’s role in the wedding and honeymoon planning process. Weather Underground offers Zoom Satellite for weather satellite imagery; Trip Planner, which searches historical weather databases to help determine the best time to take a trip; and a blog area for weather geeks.

Since people are so attuned and reactive to weather, other online publishers are taking advantage of weather-triggered advertising. Armed with fewer targeting options than some weather sites, these publishers nevertheless can target based on weather conditions and user geography, primarily based on the IP address. Yahoo, one of the larger publishers offering weather-triggered advertising, finds its weather-triggered advertisers echo my sentiments: when the weather’s nice, advertisers seem more in the mood to buy weather-triggered advertising, particularly consumer packaged goods brand advertisers. Cynic that I am, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an insurance company selling flood insurance before next year’s hurricane season.

It’s surprising more of the larger publishers don’t yet offer weather-triggered advertising. Neither “The New York Times” nor AOL do, though apparently it’s on their minds as more advertisers request it. I understand their reasoning: like search, it’s all about relevance. Think about it. Within the past five days, you’ve probably made or changed plans due to the weather. That’s a pretty powerful call to action.

Hollis is off this week. Today’s column ran earlier on ClickZ.

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