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Weather Channel at 30: A Local Ad Champ

The Weather Channel companies (TWCC) turned 30 yesterday, having first broadcast on cable on May 2, 1982. Since then it has gone online and mobile, and with a strategic relaunch (exclusively sponsored by Anheuser-Busch's Bud Light Lime), 95% of weather.com's 1 billion monthly page views now have a new look.

The online properties are more personalized, “to help consumers better forecast and plan their lives” with a simpler design and interface, more localized news content, increased social integration and enhanced map.

If weather sounds like a bland ad opportunity, guess again. At present, the website is one of the 20 most-visited sites in the U.S. by comScore data, with 54 million unique visitors in March 2012. Advertiser Perceptions in January announced its 2011 Highest Rated Media Brand awards, and Weather Channel’s online presence took the #1 spot for advertiser satisfaction, taking its place among far sexier properties like People Magazine online; Facebook; ESPN and YouTube. In terms of brand strength, Weather Channel claimed 15 million+ unique visitors to its mobile applications per month. By Nielsen data, that made TWCC the #1 content provider on the mobile web as of February, with over 24% reach of the mobile web audience.

And that localized presence has strong utility—like in classified and political advertising. In March, Cox Digital Solutions reached an exclusive ad sales agreement with TWCC, making Cox the exclusive seller of political advertising across weather.com. This was part of a larger digital strategy for Cox Digital, similar to one it struck with Yahoo. Beth Lawrence, EVP of ad sales and media solutions for The Weather Channel, explained the value proposition it presented Cox this way: “Local reach is The Weather Channel’s sweet spot [while] political advertising is Cox Digital Solutions’ area of expertise.”

Weather Channel Companies Chairman and CEO David Kenny comes from advertising, which has made TWCC increasingly advertiser-friendly. (Kenny was named CEO in January, and formerly helmed global ad giant Digitas.) “Nobody has a local infrastructure like we do,” Kenny said, “Advertisers are looking for scale and ubiquity,” and of course a highly engaged audience. “Most of our users come back every day,” and the company’s digital property attracted 62 million unique monthly users as of September 2011 (comScore data).

The short story: Weather has a value proposition that even sports and politics do not deliver, in that practically everyone is interested. That gives TWCC a leg-up in localized ads, but it has taken savvy leadership and superior customer service to deliver.

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