Nearly two billion people around the world turn to AccuWeather when looking for accurate, real-time weather forecasts and content, making it the #1 mobile weather website in the world.
With consumers making split-second decisions on what to wear, where to go, and what to do based on the weather, AccuWeather powers some of the most responsive types of ad campaigns for their advertising clients, as well as sharing live weather data with more than 180,000 websites around the world.
I connected with Eric Danetz, Global Chief Revenue Officer at AccuWeather to learn how they are using machine learning and audience insights to connect brands and advertisers with their highly engaged and loyal consumer base.
At Quantcast, one of our mantras is that “Publishers Power the Internet.” What powers AccuWeather?
Eric Danetz, Global Chief Revenue Officer at AccuWeather: Our users. They come to us multiple times a day on numerous platforms to plan and prepare for their lives. They watch us on TV, listen to us on the radio and digital assistants, read our forecasts in newspapers, see us on digital billboards and access AccuWeather on their mobile devices. We work hard every day to make sure our users are armed with the most accurate weather information to make the best decisions for their lives. What truly sets us apart in their eyes from other weather providers is the superior accuracy we deliver because of our robust weather data and our ability to explain it in a clear, contextually relevant way.
How have your experiences at traditional publications under the TIME umbrella helped to influence your role at AccuWeather.
ED: Having worked with iconic brands including Fortune, Money, Newsweek, CNET, and CBS, I’ve always been influenced by the power of authentic, authoritative and accurate reporting. Fortunately for me AccuWeather was founded on similar principles. and in fact, has focused on mitigating risk and saving lives for over 50 years. This relentless focus on delivering cutting-edge products and services is a parallel to the businesses I’ve been fortunate to work with. A key learning for me is the importance of having a direct dialog with the user. Understanding who they are, what they need and the behaviors that act as a catalyst for us to provide the most relevant content when it is most appropriate. Having the trust of a user is paramount to maintaining an effective ongoing dialog, and that is a core component of our mission here at AccuWeather.
How is AccuWeather using various types of data to engage with and educate consumers around the globe?
ED: People make decisions ranging from when and where to travel to when to send an important package based on weather patterns. They impact nearly every decision we make on a daily basis; from what we wear, where and when we eat, what we do with our free time and the list goes on. We engage consumers with our weather information in two main ways: first, directly with our own weather analytics and, secondly, in conjunction with situationally relevant data such as location.
People demand details and accuracy like never before, so AccuWeather forecasting has evolved and changed to provide a more granular level of detail. For example, the MinuteCast feature available across our digital properties, delivers minute-by-minute precipitation forecasts up to 120 minutes out, down to within five meters. This type of detailed forecasting helps educate consumers so they can make more informed planning decisions for activities such as exercising, traveling, commuting and more. By leveraging additional data sets such as point of interest location, we can deliver not only localized severe weather warnings, but also a recommendation for nearby locations of interest. For example, when the RealFeel temperature hits 95 degrees, we can let a user know the three closest options where they can get an iced tea or coffee to cool down.
How is AccuWeather helping to shape consumer experiences through the UI of its various products?
ED: Consumers want the most need-to-know information in a clear and succinct manner, so we focus on delivering a UI that is crisp, sharp and contemporary. Our goal is to help users recognize the weather and its potential impacts on their lives at-a-glance and in a way that immediately connects to how it is relevant in their lives through features like our Allergy Index, RealFeel and MinuteCast. We never stop being innovators in that experience for users to leverage the latest technologies, like native device gestures, to make our products more unique, intuitive and useful.
For example, in the fall we will relaunch our flagship mobile apps and deliver an even more distinctive and highly intuitive experience for our growing global audience of users. This means starting with user-centered design principles all wrapped in a branded AccuWeather user interface. Our new custom conditional backgrounds will be color compositions, formed around the MinuteCast circle, that mimic weather conditions through shifts in tone and hue. In addition, our launch will include a new custom typeface engineered for clarity on mobile devices – ensuring a clear and precise display of critical weather information.
What are some of the most challenging questions advertisers are asking about their customers using AccuWeather?
ED: Clients are asking the same question that has been asked of publishers for years: can you reach the in-market consumers, the consumers that will spend money on a service or product or experience?
Can you tell us an interesting story about how a brand has used your advertising solutions in a unique way?
ED: Brands choose AccuWeather to help reach the right audience at the right time in the right location. We have provided solutions for every category of business, from agriculture to hair care – from simple takeovers to custom weather triggers designed for the advertiser.
Last year, a wine company came to AccuWeather and challenged us to help get a larger audience to include wine in their weekend activity during the fall season. We really dug into what we know about how weather influences a consumer’s behavior; from variations in temperature and precipitation to outside conditions, as these all influence a consumers’ purchase decisions. Even a slight rise or fall in temperature in specific location can dictate the sales of a hot versus a cold beverage, etc. With this knowledge, we created dynamic creative executions that used our API to activate different ads promoting the proper variety based on location-specific temperature range – with lower temperatures showing fuller bodied reds and higher temperatures promoting lighter, crisper whites. Synching the granularity of the trigger to specific varieties was new to this company and really showcased the power of what we can do with our data – that even the slightest change in the weather influences a consumer’s decision.
How important are audience insights to you advertising solutions and how do they help to inform the way that AccuWeather works with clients.
ED: Audience insights are crucial to the creation and application of these solutions. Each solution is developed with the consumer in mind: First, when and how do they engage with our products? Second, can we integrate this brand thoughtfully – with relevance – into this experience in real-time? The latter is not executed based on “gut” but, rather, based on data driven insights regarding our audience. We understand the focus of our users and we try to make sure that we do not impede that path but rather enhance their experience while on our platforms.
How do you see this evolving in the next 5-10 years?
ED: Audience insights are going to be the heart of any advertising solution – the question will be how do we source that data? The onset of new and existing privacy laws will encourage publishers to engage with their audiences more directly – asking for first-hand insights such as data via authentication. We believe there will be a tipping point where audiences will understand that publishers need to maintain a viable business model – this is executed through subscription models and/or advertising/marketing. Advertisers will rely on individual publishers to help share their message to the right audience and we will help shape that story based on each platform. AccuWeather has seen this shift and has already created products that use numerous data points including weather to create new sets of insights advertisers can use.
What do you think is the biggest opportunity for the weather industry in the AI era?
ED: AccuWeather has been leveraging AI for decades as our business is predicated on Superior Accuracy in forecasting which through improved models mitigates risk at very specific locations. The use of machine learning and quantum computing will accelerate and enhance our ability to alert people with as much lead time as possible to impending weather-related threats. We will also be providing intelligent content recommendations and enhanced message delivery. Leveraging AI will allow us to better personalize the AccuWeather experience in an even more effective and efficient manner.
How has AccuWeather responded to GDPR and how are you gearing up for CCPA?
ED: AccuWeather takes our users’ privacy concerns seriously, and we are committed to maintaining the highest levels of compliance, protection and transparency.
We immediately recognized that GDPR was an opportunity. While it impacted our millions of users in the EU, we knew other laws and regulations would soon follow, such as the anticipated CCPA in California. We realized while GDPR could be a revenue challenge in the short-term, it could be a chance to reassess our thinking and our approach and invest our time and resources in becoming a leader in data security and transparency with our users.
We follow digital industry standards including those of the Mobile Marketing Association and the Digital Advertising Alliance Self-Regulatory Principles of Online Behavioral Advertising. All AccuWeather products honor device location settings and only process location data to provide functionality that users ask for, such as severe weather alerts or location-specific forecasts. AccuWeather has implemented a data compliance policy that will be required as part of any third-party partnerships; AccuWeather has also created a Data Governance Committee that will be responsible for ensuring compliance with this policy.
AccuWeather documents all third-party partners with whom we share information about a user or device that accesses AccuWeather properties. To ensure compliance for our European users, AccuWeather has disabled Personalized Advertising for users based in the European Union. AccuWeather will continue to show ads using relevant contextual targeting, based on factors including location searches, weather conditions, and other content that users see or engage with on our properties. AccuWeather also delivers a wide range of highly customized business-to-business solutions to media, business, government, and institutions, as well as weather news, content, and video for more than 180,000 third-party websites where the relevant industry standards for data compliance are strictly followed.