Weather Channel SVP: Changing the Pitch on a Local-by-Local Basis

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Six months ago, former Bing marketing executive Eric Hadley joined the Weather Channel as senior vice president for partner solutions and ad trade marketing. These days he is responsible for leading the company’s business-to-business marketing and developing large-scale opportunities with premium advertisers. That includes thinking of creative ways to leverage the company’s hugely popular mobile app, which boasts more than 100 million downloads.

Hadley recently spoke with Street Fight about the tension between local and national in weather coverage and information, the secrets behind Weather Channel’s success on mobile, and his predictions for the coming year. He will be appearing as a speaker at Street Fight Summit in New York later this month as part of an IAB-led panel titled “Using Location to Monetize Mobile Inventory.”

How has the Weather Channel used location to monetize mobile?
That’s the key thing to mobile. There so many ads and so much inventory, but what makes a difference is the location-based part of it. Two big reasons I came to the Weather Channel were the strength we have in mobile and all the data we have. We can take the time, the place, and the weather, and send a message to someone on [his or her] phone. The Weather Channel properties on mobile can be the portal to the zip code. If I’m in midtown [Manhattan], we can offer you something that makes sense. If I’m in Los Angeles, we can offer you something different. On mobile, the key thing is to be relevant.

The Weather Channel’s app is massively popular. Did you know that coming in?
I knew it coming in, but a big reason I came here was because of the numbers. It’s always one of the top five apps, up there with Facebook and Google, but if you dig deeper, the numbers are impressive. Seventy-two percent of the people who have our app check it twice a day. The native weather app on the iPhone is our data, but it’s more a launching pad for us. Just knowing what the weather is right now is not enough. You want the five-day. You want hourly. People just keep coming back to it.

Weather is inherently local but also national (because everyone talks about it and deals with it). From an advertising perspective, how does that work? Does the pitch change when you go to national brands?
It changes to some degree. We have people in every zip code using the app all the time, so we can approach smaller companies that way. For the national brands, it works because we can say, “Here’s five years of weather data. Give us your sales data, and we can do a comparison.” That allows our marketing partners to change their pitch on a local-by-local basis. The weather impacts sales on a local level, so we can help national advertisers work on a local level that way.

You partnered with Jumptap to host political ads during the election season. How did that work?
It went really well. Just like weather has a hyperlocal focus, the election is made on a zip code by zip code basis. We did some modeling and we were able to say with more than an 80% chance that if it was a rainy day in three key zip codes in Ohio, it would have swung the other way. We could really tell that story and push the message. We could tell them to get out and vote or let them know that the local voting place was only half a mile away.

Will you do more political ad stuff?
I think more and more. All the political stuff is getting concentrated in the social spaces on the Web. When it comes down to the midterms or the next presidential election, I think mobile is going to be so advanced that it will be the No. 1 place where people market.

What do you see happening in 2013?
I think there’s going to be a lot more mobile. One thing that’s holding mobile back is the creative side. We need to come up with new formats that we are more excited about. We’re rolling out branded backgrounds on Android in early February and iOS in March. Burberry took over our iPad app during the Olympics and it’s going to be similar to that. In our case, when you have people checking it two or three times a day, you can really story-tell. Think of that for a place like McDonald’s, which is serving three meals a day, or Tylenol. You wake up and you have a sick kid. You give him Tylenol once, then again six hours later, then again before bed. We think that’s going to be a much richer palette.

Noah Davis is a senior editor at Street Fight.