The Weather Channel Taps BBH, New York, as Agency of Record

Part of Massive Overhaul as Network Seeks Growth

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Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York, been named creative agency of record for the Weather Channel after a review.

The Publicis Groupe -backed shop was one of several competitors in the pitch, which TWC launched in late 2011. In the final round, BBH beat three other shops: BBDO, Atlanta; AKQA; and Fitzgerald & Co.

The hire of a creative AOR -- the company's first in years -- is part of an overhaul going on at the Weather Channel that is aimed at expanding the media giant's presence both in the U.S. and abroad. Last month, the company appointed David Kenny as CEO, ending speculation that the executive (who most recently worked at Boston-based tech firm Akamai but is familiar in adland from his time at Publicis Groupe ) was headed to Yahoo.

Also last month, Keith Pardy was named CMO at the Weather Channel. He joined from BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion and is quickly making changes to help expand possibilities for the Weather Channel brand, which stretches across cable TV and digital properties.

"We're still going to be the go-to place to find your weather, but we are going to be telling more how weather impacts people's lives and what they do," Mr. Pardy told Ad Age . "And we aren't just looking at one screen, we are looking at different platforms and curate the content slightly differently based upon the media."

According to Mr. Pardy, the Weather Channel has 60 million unique visits a month and 33 million hits a month via mobile. It claims to be the second-most-downloaded mobile app, after Facebook.

BBH will oversee brand strategy, communications planning, creative strategy and execution across a variety of channels. Although Mr. Pardy officially began in his role just a few weeks ago, he led the search process from start to finish and was involved in writing the brief to agencies. He called the decision to hire BBH unanimous. Although the Weather Channel's measured-media spending has historically been meager, Mr. Pardy is putting a significant investment behind the company's branding and advertising.

"What BBH did was come up with an idea to elevate weather in people's minds," Mr. Pardy said, explaining that the agency will help the Weather Channel be more of what he calls a "recommendation engine to help people through their days" rather than a site people go to a few times a day. So for example, based on its trove of customer data, the Weather Channel might suggest outdoor activities or clothing that a person should wear based on the day's weather. "We're going to start connecting the dots," Mr. Pardy said.

Mr. Pardy suggested that the company is also thinking about new ways to offer personalized content on social media and said to expect more in the way of long-form content. TWC has added two docudramas to its prime-time lineup: One is "Ice Pilots," which pairs adventurous pilots with aging warplanes in the harsh conditions of Canada's Northwest Territories; and the other is "Lifeguard!" which premieres this week and follows the lives of people who watch 150 miles of California coastline.

"People's default view of the Weather Channel is a meteorologist standing in front of a map, but in reality, they are one of the most innovative media companies in the world," said BBH CEO Greg Andersen, in a statement. "There is a lot that marketers and agencies can learn from them, including ours." At BBH, it joins a roster of clients that include Google, Axe, the BBC, Johnnie Walker and Cole Haan.

The first big push for a new campaign, along with some product releases, will come in May, according to Mr. Pardy.

In terms of Mr. Kenny's involvement in the new direction for the Weather Channel, the short answer is that he's hands-on and was involved in the late stages of the search process. "David gave the final nod that this was the agency," Mr. Pardy said, noting that Mr. Kenny felt comfortable with the choice of BBH partly from his time at Publicis.

"David is still formulating his vision, but one thing I can tell you is that ... we are going to redefine a lot of things in popular culture," said Mr. Pardy.

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