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Weather Says Its Mobile Ad Business Is Growing Faster Than Google

Exec says banners are tough but mobile branding works

Last week, Adweek wrote about a Dartmouth study on mobile advertising (Top 7 Reasons Why Mobile Ads Don't Work). Curt Hecht, chief global revenue at Weather, came back with a few reason why they do.

Adweek: People often knock mobile ads, particularly display ads. It seems tough for the average Web publisher to compete right now. But you guys are bullish on the medium. Why?
Hecht: Well, if you look at our approach to mobile, Facebook and Google get all of the traffic and attention, but we’re doing better than that, and that’s off a pretty good base. It was really [Weather's mobile lead] Cameron Clayton and [former CEO] Mike Kelly years ago, and a guy we brought in from Yahoo [former Yahoo exec Alex Linde, who’s now vp digital monetization] who all said, "We can’t just have banners, they are so small." So we started Branded Backgrounds [where a brand’s images appear in the entire background of Weather's app]. 

What was the thinking?
We said, "If we provide a canvas, it’s better for the brand. They make beautiful products and they want to be seen." We’re not going to just slap on logos. And it’s got to be in the context of mobile and weather.

How so?
We started this with Burberry last summer. We built for them during London Games. The ads had London backgrounds which were tied to the actual weather at the moment. And we said, "Let’s productize that.”

But you hear that brand advertisers just aren’t in mobile yet. That is all apps advertising other apps.
Well, we released our Branded Backgrounds early in 2013. We’ve gotten Procter & Gamble, Disney’s The Great and Powerful Oz, Toyota. We hadn’t landed Disney in a long time. It’s not a natural. Same with automotive. It’s all about showing the product in ways you can’t do on a phone. We think we’ve found a way.

Right now though, the mobile ad market seem to have been snatched away by Twitter, Google and Facebook.
My goal for our team is "market growth plus." If you look at Google’s recent mobile numbers, they reported 28 percent revenue growth, we’re growing faster than that. We have scale. If you look at a media publisher, we crush anybody out there. This idea that mobile ads are hard to see ... we’re giving you the whole screen and it's six inches from your face. They’re not overly interruptive. And it’s creative married to context.

What other trends are you seeing in mobile?
Well, we are selling these background ads on impressions basis, so we can accommodate more advertisers and do more targeting. And you’ll see a new design next year. Our lead product guys are mobile guys. That’s different from other companies. The other thing that has built for us pretty quickly is video. In fact, we now sell as much mobile video advertising as we do on the desktop.

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