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April 25, 2006: When a Promo Isn't Just a Promo

The Weather Channel created a microsite to promote a TV program, and used multiple media to promote the microsite as a standalone entertainment piece.

A recently launched promotional microsite for The Weather Channel not only generated more than a million visitors in the first two weeks, but also may serve as a future launching pad for future broadband marketing campaigns.

Conceptualized by Atlanta-based IQ Interactive, an interactive marketing agency that specializes in rich media campaigns (previous clients have included Audi, IBM, Cox Communications, Royal Caribbean and VW), the website was created to illustrate what future environmental disasters might look like in conjunction with The Weather Channel's debut of its program "It Could Happen Tomorrow."

The rationale for developing a microsite, according to Paul Greenberg, director of consumer marketing with The Weather Channel, was simple. 

"Our viewers are internet savvy and users of new technology, so we designed a marketing effort across multiple platforms to give viewers an opportunity to get preview material that they were interested in," he says. "We provided additional content to supplement the program for the microsite, so for example, people could not only get a sneak peak, but could also learn more about the historical storms that were the basis for our episodes, as well as getting severe weather safety information."

Some of these platforms included online, mobile phones and downloadable to mobile video devices.

In brief, users could pan around an interactive map and learn about each episode as it related to specific cities and disaster scenarios.

For three cities -- New York, Dallas and San Francisco -- IQ Interactive CEO/President Tony Quin says users were able to zoom in and experience the aftermath of disasters in scenarios brought to life through dynamic visuals, sound and interaction.

The post-hurricane New York scene, for example, showed a city submerged in water; in Dallas a category F5 (the highest designation possible) tornado ripped through downtown; in San Francisco, an 8.0 earthquake rocked the city and destroyed most of its infrastructure and world-renowned landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge. 

"Additional content also allowed viewers to dig deeper with expert interviews, clips from the show and advice about what to do if it actually did happen," Quin says.

The microsite took approximately two months to develop from concept to launch (both IQ Interactive and The Weather Channel decline to reveal total microsite production costs). Greenberg says the campaign was truly integrated as the site was promoted via spots that ran on The Weather Channel, in TV spots that ran cross-channel on other cable networks, in print advertising, extensively promoting the microsite on, working with partners and through a public relations campaign.

Although The Weather Channel and IQ Interactive designed the microsite primarily to support the TV program's launch, Greenberg says that the level of interest from viewers convinced The Weather Channel to offer access to the material for the next six months-- and they are hoping to add more content to support upcoming episodes.

Since the launch, page views have exceeded two million, with almost one million combined video views via the microsite and the's "It Could Happen Tomorrow" video gallery. While Greenberg declines to provide details on future interactive bells and whistles for the microsite, he says that The Weather Channel is always looking for ways to reinforce programming launches and will be rolling out similar types of integrated efforts this year.

The Weather Channel's microsite, adds Quin, is part of a much bigger and emerging trend-- broadband marketing. As of the end of March, for instance, broadband penetration nationwide was about 70 percent and has reached and passed a critical mass in what Quin says is essentially a whole new marketing dynamic.

"People are interested in immersive experiences that have content value and a web-based experience has a unique entertainment integrity," says Quin. "The microsite demonstrates how to engage people with the qualities of The Weather Channel brand on multiple platforms. The internet is not being used as a promotional medium supporting the cable channel-- it stands on its own."

Quin adds that broadband web campaigns like The Weather Channel's microsite offer marketers a fusion of branding and selling -- not commerce -- rolled into one.

"People are now figuring this out, that it offers the possibility of web-centric marketing, all within the context of engaging the viewer," he says. "The microsite enables viewers to engage with the content in a personal and emotional way while driving home the awesome power of nature."

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