The Weather Channel is all about location, and so – increasingly – are its ads. The cross-channel meteorology brand has 30 million mobile users (average audience Dec 2011 to Feb 2012, per comScore), and a growing percentage of location ads are served based on where those users are when they do a weather check.
A new relationship with PlaceIQ will help TWC further that mission by creating segments using lat-long data for launch advertisers Chevy Silverado, Frito-Lay, and Ram Truck, among others. The move will help it contend with the targeting sophistication of mobile ad networks, with whom it competes for ad dollars in mobile. (Read the release.)
"For the first time, it allows us to take location data and translate it into audience," says TWC mobile sales VP Patrick McCormack. For a campaign targeting business travelers, he says, "Instead of targeting zip codes that contain airports, we can target the very airport that a client may want to reach a business traveler at."
Place IQ works by dividing grids, mostly around urban areas, into 100 x 100 meter squares. Data about each of these squares allows it to create segments, often leveraging time-of-day data. For instance, someone parked outside The Home Depot at 10pm may well be a contractor, an appealing target for an ad pushing Chevy Silverado or Ram trucks.
PlaceIQ was rolled out in May as part of TWC's redesigned iPhone app and will come to Android in July. Other mobile platforms will follow later this year.
While its location data may be granular, PlaceIQ's segments are relatively blunt – or at least they start out that way. The company offers 25 "principal profiles," essentially off-the shelf segments with major reach and scale. It can put a fine edge on them according to the particular needs of a Dunkin Donuts, Best Buy, or whatever brand might be mulling a buy.
Which begs the question, is the onus on TWC to convince clients to log the time necessary to come up with more detailed segments? McCormack says no.
"We don't make it a segment building exercise," he says. "We say to our clients, 'What audience are you trying to speak to with this campaign?'" TWC and PlaceIQ then work together to come back with segments that might apply to that audience. "It's pretty turnkey for a marketer."
Not all advertisers want such detailed segments, preferring broad geotargeting for campaigns with national branding objectives or other goals. But for those who desire it, says McCormack, "At some point we see this type of technology as being applicable to the majority of our mobile impressions."
That's a substantial claim, since TWC now boasts more mobile pageviews than desktop ones – and has for about the past year.
From PlaceIQ's perspective, the deal is an important step forward, being the company's first direct publisher relationship. (Most partners are ad networks.) And what a publisher.
"In a way they almost a dream customer," says Duncan McCall. "They are an extremely large publisher that has a tremendous amount of hyperlocal traffic. They care about their brand, their users. They sell their own ads. They don't sell everything direct but they have a huge direct sales force."
It's a good time to be independent of cookies, as the ad industry grapples with the implications of Microsoft's recent surprise move to turn Internet Explorer 10's Do Not Track feature "on" by default. While many stakeholders are pushing Microsoft to walk back that decision, there's a real chance that it won't and a plurality of Internet users will decline to have their behaviors tracked for later targeting.
That would be a setback for any ad companies pushing cookie or fingerprinting technology. But not for PlaceIQ, which profiles demographic terrain instead of individuals.
Being such a large publisher with so much lat-long data on its users, TWC has taken its time evaluating the field of location data vendors, and McCormack doesn't think PlaceIQ has a close competitor in creating granular place-based profiles.
"The ability to target at such a low level of detail and reliably hit an audience is not something we saw from any other vendor," he said, adding, "I'm sure there may be others who will be quick to follow."
By Zach Rodgers