Accuweather Adding Cell Avails

AccuWeather, which pioneered in the areas of geographic and content-based targeting of Web ads, is adding cell phone avails.

At last week's CTIA show in New Orleans the State College, Pennsylvania-based weather content provider announced deals with four different cell phone technology companies. Among them they cover all the technologies cellular operators are now rolling out.

But Jim Candor, the company's vice president for new media, told MediaPost agencies won't have to know technologies like Brew, GSM, MMS, or J2ME in order to do business on these new networks. "You would advertise through us."

This is important because understanding the ad capabilities of the technologies, let alone how to create compelling ads for them, is daunting. Some phones will support just text, while others will draw weather maps. Still other systems (like AvantGo, which AccuWeather is already working with to serve PDAs) deliver full Web pages.

But as carriers sign contracts and the technology companies - Emblaze, Summus, eMbience and Infospace - start making their magic, Candor's team will be working to make it easy.

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A lot of the work has already been done, Candor said. Volkswagen's contracts send ads only to Chicago. Tyson Chicken only advertises chicken barbeques on Thursdays and Fridays where the weekend forecasts are for sunny skies and highs in the 80s. The cellular companies themselves are also big AccuWeather advertisers, Candor said, as are tourism agencies, travel sites and drug companies.

Candor said AccuWeather would teach clients about the different cell phone formats, not just the technologies. The AccuWeather website, for instance, has a lot of real estate on which to advertise. The company supports a wide variety of advertising formats on those pages, ranging from text-only banners to buttons and Web banners to full-screen Shohskeles presentations for advertisers like Nexium.

This won't be the case on cell phones, at least initially, Candor said. Most screens will have room for just one sponsor, or one small 170x30 pixel banner. But in some cases AccuWeather might be able to push full screens, before the forecast, that display for five seconds while a weather map loads in the background. Geographic and forecast targeting could make that one message very powerful, he added, especially since the content, in this case, might be triggered by an alert, like a tornado warning, that users have programmed-in beforehand.

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