Media Insights Q&A With Richard Lowden

Richard Lowden is the vice president of sales for Wunderground.com, a major Weather Web site. Richard has extensive experience in local cable and made the move into interactive about five years ago. Wunderground is a data-driven site, monitoring weather worldwide and analyzing consumer spending behavior based on varying weather conditions. Some of its research will surprise you.

In his video interview, Richard talks about Wunderground.com, behavioral targeting and addressability using weather information, as well as some predictions for the media marketplace.

Direct links to the full interview videos can be found at WeislerMedia blog. Here's an excerpt:

CW: Tell us a little bit about Wunderground.

RL: Wunderground is a fascinating story. We are the first online weather provider. We went commercial back in 1995. We started off at the University of Michigan. We have over 17 million unique visitors to our Web site around the world. We are the second largest weather Web site. One of our biggest points of differentiation is that we have the largest network of personal weather stations... These are over 16,000 people around the world who actually have these weather stations set up at their homes and at their businesses that feed us data. So we have a lot of localized data.... Especially in San Francisco, the weather in the Mission District can be vastly different from the weather out in the Richmond District, and ours is the only Web site that is going to be able to show those differences.

CW: How can you maximize the addressability of your data?

RL: [By] actually sharing our data with a marketer. Because we have the largest database of historical weather, we can compare historical weather to historical sales first before we launch any campaigns.

Then we can start seeing where those trends are: What weather patterns made what impact on sales? And then, of course, we can take those predictions and distribute their advertising smartly and intelligently when various weather phenomena occurred.

And that to me is one of the ultimate uses of the data that we have. Weather affects all of us everyday, so it is one of those things that we forget about. But at the same time it is something that advertisers can use to really focus in on a campaign, to make sure that that their messages are distributed at the precisely right time to get that message out there, where we know that people have already positively responded by purchasing the product in a given weather event. Let's be sure that... there is ad saturation when we see that particular weather event in the forecast or currently occurring.

CW: So when you track certain weather events to certain purchases, have there been any surprises in any purchases? Have you ever looked at the data and said,  I never realized that people buy THAT during certain weather?

RL: Well that is not something that we can publicly talk about, because a lot of people keep their data private. Obviously we are in competitive times. But I can tell you this: One of the largest big-box retailers, who has done a lot of work looking at weather and looking at sales, has noticed that whenever there is a hurricane forecast coming through, they see a huge spike in Pop-Tarts. And so of course we conjecture, "Why is there a spike in Pop-Tart sales?" Well Pop-Tarts have great shelf life, they stay around forever and it keeps the kids happy. So in hurricanes the electronics go down, people can't play on their computers, can't play their video games, feed them sugar, feed them Pop-Tarts.

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