Weather Channel Places Video Ads on Mobile Site

The Weather Channel is looking to capitalize on the success of its mobile presence so far by introducing video and local ad offerings. The company will share its plan with advertisers tonight at its 2008 upfront presentation.

With an average of 6.3 million unique users a month, The Weather Channel Mobile ranked as the second most popular mobile Web site in 2007 behind Yahoo Mail, and the most popular content site overall, according to Nielsen Mobile. Video forecasts were made available on the site for the first time last year.

By early in the second quarter of this year, the index page for those videos will include a banner ad, while the ads themselves will consist of a five-second pre-roll ad paired with a 15-second post-roll ad. Those ads will be sold as a sole sponsorship at launch, allowing a single advertiser to own the entire section.

The company is also using its upfront presentation to unveil a redesign of its local forecast pages intended to boost the effectiveness of ad placements. The content on those pages has been scaled back in order to decrease loading time, and a new center-left placement will position ads closer to the page’s most popular content. In-house studies have also shown the “unexpected” placement of the ad boosted its effectiveness with consumers.

The local forecast ads also allow advertisers to precisely target their audiences by geography, because users must enter their zip code or city to access those pages. Rebecca Barnett, local ad sales director for The Weather Channel, said that mobile is currently among the company’s top advertising priorities, and these new ad products are a result of that focus. “That is definitely where we see the future of the media going from an advertising standpoint, and we have invested heavily in the platform,” she said. “For example, we are one of the only publishers to have a dedicated mobile sales team.”

The Weather Channel first launched its mobile Web site in 1999, and began offering advertising on the site in April 2006. The company then re-launched the site this January with new maps and ski information, as well as a front-page header featuring current conditions.

Barnett said that the ads on its mobile site are all unique to that platform, rather than standard Web ads reformatted to fit the smaller screen. “Our team helps our advertisers develop content specifically with the mobile audience in mind,” she said.

The new advertising opportunities come on the heels of a banner year for The Weather Channel across multiple platforms. Overall, The Weather Channel brand averaged 36.9 million unique visitors a month in 2007, according to Nielsen, making it the 14th most popular brand online. The Weather Channel Desktop was also the fastest growing weather application last year, growing its user base by 9.3 percent to nearly 6 million, according to Nielsen.

The brief upfront presentation is scheduled to take place tonight at ESpace in Midtown Manhattan.

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