How data has taken Weather Company’s advertising, audience strategy by storm

By Noreyana Fernando

Columbia University

New York City, USA


Ever felt like orange juice on a cold windy day? If so, you are not alone.

The Weather Channel’s data-driven analyses show that  juice sales increase during periods of high wind and low temp. Soda sales go up during snowy or rainy winters. And detergent sales peak during average precipitation and below-average temperatures.

The Weather Channel sees itself as the forecaster of not just nasty weather — but of feelings, as influencers of behaviour, according to Domenic Venuto, general manager of the consumer division at The Weather Company.

The Weather Company uses "weather effects insights" to tie consumer behaviour to advertiser targeting.
The Weather Company uses "weather effects insights" to tie consumer behaviour to advertiser targeting.

Following its recent takeover by IBM, the Weather Channel has had access to cognitive analysis programmes that help the company better understand human behaviour through a combination of location data, emotions and, of course, weather Venuto explained to the audience of 150+ at the Big Data Media Conference, a joint venture of World Newsmedia Network (WNMN) and INMA, at Thomson Reuters on Thursday.

For example, rewinding clock back to see what comprises a “treat occasion” to see where consumers come from before treating themselves. Where do they go after?

Venuto’s talk was divided into three sections: the channel, the targeting, and the people.

  1. The Weather Channel: Its goal is to master forecast and to master the complexity of big data. It is more of a platform technology product company. The company processes 20 TB of data in its systems every day — that’s two time the amount of printed material in the U.S. Library of Congress being digested daily. This data is used to then forecast across 3 billion locations mapped every 15 minutes. The forecast is delivered 26 billion times a day. The company then thinks about how to turn it into actionable intelligence to make better decisions.

  1. Ad targeting: This is done through through two data platforms. Location FX and Weather FX. Weather FX monitors weather’s impact on emotion, processing two years of data on a daily basis, telling people when to deliver a message that is more likely to drive consumer action. In summary, the company  uses predictive weather analytics to help marketers capitalise. Location FX analyzes trends based on location. The majority — 80% — of The Weather Channel’s users share their location information with the company.

  1. The framework: There are 20 million users on the channel’s servers, each with two to five daily check-ins and 1 billion locations pings a week. This gives the company one of the largest sets of continuous data.

IBM recently acquired Weather Channel. Yes, the company has a large editorial staff but now powered by access to IBM technology like Watson, IBM’s cognitive platform that lets them look at connections in data to personalize consumer experience.

To date, the focus has been on the United States, but the channel plans to go international in 2017, starting in Germany. Weather and priorities vary greatly not just within North America, but across the world. “This platform can capitalise on those variations,” Venturo said.

Moderator Jodie Hopperton asked the burning question: What about user privacy? Venuto said privacy is a big topic in their realm. “We take it seriously,” he said. There are two levels of security on the device (iPhone, Android) and the internal database level. Some people don’t opt in for location, but those who do get alerts based on location, making it a value exchange.

About Noreyana Fernando

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