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The Weather Company’s Jeremy Steinberg On The Ways Location Data Should Direct Marketers’ Decisions

In today’s forecast, combined meteorological analytics and geo-data can tell clients where yogurt sales will spike and how hot it needs to be to spur purchases of tires.

Weather is inherently local, so it makes sense that The Weather Company has always incorporated deep analysis about geo-data in helping its ad clients construct campaigns on its now former multimedia properties associated with The Weather Channel brand.

It’s been barely a month since the completion of IBM’s acquisition of The Weather Company (the data/analytics side of the company, not to be conflated with the cable TV and consumer-facing website and apps of The Weather Channel, as those two entities are now separate).

The combination of technology and global scale will serve as the foundation for the Watson IoT Cloud platform, building on a $3B commitment IBM made in March 2015 to invest in the Internet of Things.

Among the analytics pieces The Weather Company adds to IBM’s IoT enterprise services is the ability to combine meteorological data and location analytics in surprising ways, such as being able to correlate sales of everything from yogurt to tires to specific changes in temperature and atmospheric conditions in real-time, says Jeremy Steinberg, TWC’s Head of Global Sales.

And while the two TWCs will continue to work together on ad sales, The Weather Company will be sharing more of its data with clients for placement across a wide range of other media platforms as well.

GeoMarketing: How does this merger change the data capabilities of what The Weather Company has already built up?

Jeremy Steinberg: First and foremost couldn’t be more excited about the acquisition and we’re getting nothing but positive feedback from our client base. They’re extraordinarily interested in what this means and, so we’re having a lot of very interesting conversations with both top partners and new partners which is always a good sign.

The way I kind of view this is all about helping to make better decisions. For the past couple of years, as we’ve transformed our business to be more of a product in technology organization, with our Weather FX platform and our new location platform. It’s all about helping marketers make better decisions by understanding how weather impacts their business. And now, it’s increasingly more about how location impacts their business.

What does IBM bring to the table? Does their obvious strength as a Big Data company merely complement and extend what TWC does?

To some extent IBM, is also in the decisioning business. They’re helping their large clients make better decisions through things like Watson, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, Internet of Things. The combination is really powerful because now we can start connecting the CIO to the CMO and, ultimately, to the consumer.

There’s a lot of nice synergies between kind of our respective businesses so what we’re excited about is bringing those together for marketers.

Will existing TWC products and solutions be attached or subsumed to IBM data solutions? Or will they be augmented on a case-by-case or product-specific/client-specific basis?

There will be a lot of use cases around current IBM solutions and new IBM solutions leveraging the power of both our data and our platform. There will be a lot of solutions where we’ll work together to develop new programs for marketers built off of a combination of services. In some instances, we might find that IBM is already working with a large client and then we’ll find new ways to partner together. There are a lot of unique ways for us to partner with our client base.

What are the priorities as you work on the integration of TWC within IBM?

The big area of focus for us will always be weather and related data. But you’re going to see a lot more from us from a location standpoint. We’re investing heavily in location-based solutions for marketers.

The second priority is personalization. When you think about weather and location, obviously we have a great understanding of consumers: how they feel, how they behave, and what they do. There’s a great opportunity in collaborating with IBM to further personalize the experience.

When you think about the power of Watson and our ability to sync and help consumers on a one-to-one basis by helping make decisions about their lives, this goes back to our focus on helping marketers — and consumers — make better decisions.

The third is globalization. We’re going to be making a big push to globalize, to expand our brand into new countries. Fourth is measurements and analytics. We do a lot of measurements and analytics. Most of the programs that we partner with marketers on include a measurement plan.

We’re laser focused on driving sales and we think that leveraging what we know about location can further help inform our analytics in real-time.

Weather is inherently location-specific. How do you transfer that idea of focusing so intently on to enterprise marketers who prize massive scale for their campaigns?

Among other things, we’ve done a lot of work around how weather impacts behavior. We look at over 44 different weather variables. We correlated them to sale data to find weather conditions that drive sales of certain products.

“For example I don’t know if you knew this, but yogurt sales are highly impacted by wind speed.”

That’s an insight that you can’t put a price tag on. Another one is liquid detergent sales increase during periods of above average precipitations and below average temperature.

Here’s another one: tire sales increase after several days of above average temperature and clear skies.

We like to say that weather and location are sort of an invisible layer of insight that sits over everything. And we’re not just giving marketers the insights, but we can actually help them activate the insight in real-time.

When I go and talk to a tire manufacturer I don’t just tell them, “Let me give you the insight.” I say, “Oh, and by the way we can actually target these conditions, we can actually align creative messaging and oh, by the way we can help you better segment your consumers.”

What makes TWC better at location than other geo-data providers?

I think it goes beyond understanding location data and I think it starts with accuracy that we can provide.

There are a lot of location data providers who have great user interfaces, have great targeting capabilities — but they don’t actually have accurate data.

Because consumers come to our properties and they want to know what the weather is in their location, we can achieve greater accuracy as a result. Also, our users come back to us so often and as a result of signing up for notification about local conditions near them, we can start to put together extremely powerful portraits of consumers.

We work with marketers to unlock that power to help them better segment the consumers they want to target in real-time. In some instances, they’re overlaying weather targeting, and in other instances they’re not. We now have these two phenomenal proprietary products that we’re out in market talking to clients about and that’s before we even add in the benefit that you’re going to start seeing from integrating Watson and how we can start getting better at helping our ads and our platforms sync. So the question we’re working on now: How we can help our marketers start connecting all the systems and data that they have behind the scenes and start really connecting that into their marketing strategies.

Does working inside IBM mean that TWC will be able to work with a wider array of marketers and enterprises?

In terms of our client base, I would say we’ve been pretty active across the board. IBM is definitely going to help us as we globalize, for sure.

But for us and working with a range of marketers, weather highly impacts all categories of business. And while many businesses that aren’t directly weather-impacted are impacted by location and consumer behavior, right? What I would say is we are already well diversified but there are the power of IBM solutions again cognitive computing, IoT, things like “Smart Cities” and Watson Health, that are going to help us build even more powerful products. And those new products will have a halo effect for our marketing partners.

We’ve taken really sophisticated data led solutions to our clients. Now we’re going to be able to accelerate our great work to take it to a whole another step that no one has really seen in marketing before. That’s what I’m so excited about. Almost every marketer is trying to figure out how to better leverage data. And we can help them do that in more ways than ever.

A lion in Kruger National Park, (Courtesy of Jeremy Steinberg)
A lion in Kruger National Park, (Courtesy of Jeremy Steinberg)

You mentioned that you’re working on expanding the depth of the location-based data solutions TWC provides to marketers. What sort of things are you exploring?

It comes down to the breadth of our data and the trust our marketing partners have put into us. A couple of years ago, we had maybe one or two clients give us their actual sales data to run correlations against and those have been well documented in the press. You wouldn’t believe the number of clients who are coming to us saying, “Here is our data, we don’t give it to anybody else. We want you to run this against your weather data. We want to use this across all of our capabilities.”

I’m really excited about that, and I’m also really excited about weather triggering off of our platform. We’ve done some managed programs across AppNexus and Twitter, and now we’re going to accelerate off property deployment by actually giving our weather-triggering API to marketing partners to activate on their own.

Clients are coming to us and they’re saying, “We want to make better decisions leveraging weather, but we just want to do it across all of our channels of marketing. We want to do it on weather, but we also want to do it off of weather; we want to use location and weather data to power email CRM, we want to do it in our social posts, we want to do it on our own and operated platforms, we want to do it in store.”

They have been craving this actionable data from us is they want to do more of it. They just want to have one “decisioning layer” that sits across everything that helps them figure out across all their communication channels and so that’s also an area that you’re going to see a lot more from us is extending beyond our owned and operated platforms.

Strange to ask, but… Will TWC still power ads for The Weather Channel?

We’re still connected from a marketing standpoint to the channel. We’re separate entities but we’re working closely on many of our largest marketing partnerships and that will continue for the foreseeable future.

Lastly, our bonus question: What’s your favorite place?

South Africa Kruger National Park. My honeymoon…a memory I will never forget!

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.