“The challenge is to make the effort” – Google’s Tom Jenen on why brands shouldn’t wait to tap into weather advertising

The potential for brands to harness data taken from weather patterns to create highly targeted campaigns is huge, according to Google’s head of marketplace engagement development, Tom Jenen, but brands and advertisers must first make the effort to understand their own data before pursuing it.

“Weather data is extremely powerful and it’s even more powerful when it’s analysed with your own data,” said Jenen. “The challenge is to make the effort, you have to pull your data and get to know the customers and then match that up against the weather.”

Jenen’s comments came during Weather for Breakfast, an event looking at how the weather can be used as an advertising tool, something which brands thus far have been slow to capitalise on.

He explained that right now pharmaceutical companies are leading the way with highly targeted campaigns driven by weather. Some, for example, use The Weather Channel’s data on pollen counts at any one time to pinpoint where people might be suffering the most and tailor their ad buy to reach that target group.

“Doing it in real time is the trick,” he continued. “When you’re taking that weather data and applying it you want to make sure that you're creating an experience that speaks directly to the consumer. And weather data, especially, because it’s so hyper local, can really accomplish that.”

Here, programmatic buying is key and five years ago Google, with The Weather Channel, developed the first private market place for online advertising around weather data. With that service, advertisers can work with the Met Office or The Weather Channel to achieve a particular set of impressions based on weather data. Coupled with the brand’s own knowledge of its consumer, this can allow for a highly targeted ad buy.

Jenen offered US-based craft store Michaels as an example.

“This store wanted to ‘own’ rainy days,” he relayed, offering up one example of the use of the data. “Knowing that people don’t actually want to go out when it is raining , they would deliver geo-targeted ads when the forsecast was for rain to make sure that the people in those areas were getting the information to make purchasing decisions. The store can then take that further with their own data. For example, if they know that 90 per cent of their consumers are women they can layer that to make it a really targeted ad.”

Anthony Mullen, a senior analyst at Forrester, agreed saying that while retailers can now plan for the season, the true value is the detail that weather data can provide.

“You have to improvise within an environment. You can plan for certain conditions to take place but ultimately you have to be sympathetic and resonant with what’s going on in the moment. It’s one thing to plan for the seasons, but you also have to plan for abnormal weather otherwise your resonance and contextual relevance will be out.”

For Mullen, French fashion retailer La Redoute is an example of a brand getting it right.

“They used out of home signage with barometric gauges and temperature sensors. The billboards (pictured) changed dynamically based on where you were at that moment. So that’s a real-time response, a seasonal approach coupled with this ad-hoc approach.”

Mullins went on to reveal that, compared to other seasons, La Redoute's traffic increased by 34 per cent and sales increased by 17 per cent,

“That’s down to effective messaging at the right time driven by the weather,” said Mullen.

Concluding their sessions both Mullen and Jenen agreed that weather advertising is a sector full of potential, and the ongoing investment in the Met Office's technology is only going to make it more sophisticated.

However, while the temptation might be to go to a variety of paid marketing and advertising agencies and say “do something magical with weather”, they reiterated that brands must put the effort into researching their sensitivity to weather before they can work with the likes of The Weather Channel and Met Office to create campaigns that will have real impact on consumers.

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