Blustery With a Chance of Down Parkas

Paul Walsh isn't your average run-of-the-mill meteorologist

Six months ago, The Weather Channel hired a meteorology whiz. Only this one won’t be doing the five-day forecast in front of a green screen.

Paul Walsh, a former meteorologist with the U.S. Air Force who spent a little more than a decade in the private sector helping companies predict how weather patterns might affect their businesses, was tapped as the cable network’s vp of weather analytics. In the newly created role, Walsh will head up a nascent initiative to sell highly targeted weather predictions to the channel’s advertisers.

“We’re using Walsh’s background and data brain to figure out how to bring something to market that would be extremely useful to clients,” said Beth Lawrence, The Weather Channel’s evp of ad sales.

For instance, if it’s set to be unusually cold in Phoenix next week, The Weather Channel could use Walsh’s predictions to tell sweater makers when to start advertising.

“We have to figure out how to put a red bow on [Walsh’s predictions] and go to the market and say, ‘You should use this information because it could help move inventory,’” Lawrence said.

Though the service was conceived several months ago, The Weather Channel only started pitching it in earnest last week. So far, just one client, a large retail chain (which the channel declined to identify), has signed on for a test. Lawrence aims for the service, tentatively dubbed Weather on Demand, to be fully operational by the second quarter.

“All weather, like politics, is truly local,” said Walsh. “Understanding what kind of retail behavior the weather is influencing gives us the ability to help our advertisers deliver the precise, right message at the precise, right location.”

If the service sounds far afield of the traditional role of a cable channel, it’s a point Lawrence seems to embrace. “It puts us in a consulting role,” she said. Yet, in a world in which the weather has become big business, it could prove a sunny prospect for the channel.

Some in the ad world are already taking notice.

“Weather-triggered media is nothing new; we’ve bought it before,” said Barry Lowenthal, president of media agency The Media Kitchen. “But usually, that advertising is done on a daily basis. So the idea that we’d have more time to plan and adjust inventory accordingly could be a nice opportunity.”

Should advertisers start making use of the service, look for other weather-prognosticating media to follow suit.