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The Weather Company’s JOURNEYfx location-based ads see the bigger picture

October 18, 2016 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

Geo-targeted advertising is not new, but The Weather Company has always taken its own unique path due to its ability to collect a raft of highly-specific, location-related information. Add into that a parent company, IBM, with a focus on cognitive computing and it comes as no surprise that Weather’s latest entrant into the digital ad market, JOURNEYfx, goes well beyond location to offer a smarter kind of targeting.

Think of it like this: Previously, location-based advertising was targeted based on where you’ve been—say at a coffee shop last week. Since you’d been at a coffee shop, it seems appropriate to send you ads for premium coffee spots when you are in the vicinity. However, Domenic Venuto, General Manager, Consumer Division at The Weather Company points out that “you might have just gone in once—for a sandwich.” Not only would this targeting prove ineffective for the advertiser, the ads would likely annoy the consumer, with whom The Weather Company has a particularly intimate and trust-dependent relationship.

Based upon its ability to capture, combine and analyze the vast amount of data from The Weather Company’s 87 million monthly mobile users, JOURNEYfx changes the usual targeting scenario because it is able to “understand rituals, consumers’ patterns of behavior, and the best time to market in order to influence that behavior.” Thus, those premium coffee ads are served to someone who hits the coffee shop every morning between the gym and the office. Factor in the weather and JOURNEYfx will know whether to make it an ad for an iced coffee or a pumpkin spiced latte.

In an even more compelling example, Venuto describes an automotive shopper (who research tells us has almost always decided which car they’ll by before they turn up at a showroom). Between the first party data collected (you’ve been to two car lots in the past two week) and weather-specific information (it’s going to be sunny this weekend), and the data analysis of IBM’s Watson, JOURNEYfx can predict with an 80% degree of certainty that this shopper is going to buy a car this weekend. So now’s the time to serve up ads that will influence that purchase decision.

Venuto says that “one of the many benefits of acquisition by IBM is they get our data and platform and we get the scale and capabilities of IBM.” In particular, he cites IBM’s commitment to research and its focus on cognitive computing.

The union is impacting many aspects of Weather’s business beyond advertising, which is likely to become more apparent as voice- and intelligent-assistants such as Amazon Echo become increasingly popular. Venuto says that the company is using Watson at the data level and the weather forecasting level. It is also impacting the consumer experience because Watson “allows consumers to engage with our products using natural language—which affects our consumer product strategy.”

First and foremost, Venuto says The Weather Company remains focused on providing a product that “adds value to our consumers’ lives.” It also takes a measured approach to personalization that, according to Venuto, has seen that the highest engagement for advertising across every category comes when its contextually relevant. And that, he points out, is not something every provider of location based advertising can say. “If a consumer is using your product and says ‘hey wait a minute, why do they want to know where I am?’ because it isn’t an organic fit with the app, you are going to have some problems.”

Venuto describes The Weather Company’s relationship with its consumers as being a deeply engrained part of their daily ritual: Millions of consumers grab their phones to check the weather before they even get out of bed and check in again several times a day—more if severe weather will affect them or their loved ones. A unique and highly personal category of information that allows JOURNEYfx to identify patterns in consumer behavior throughout a given day, week and year and then serve up ads that anticipate their needs.

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