Digital advertising business

Is IBM going into the digital advertising business?

IBM's Watson computing system.Getty Images

IBM's Watson computing system.

Digital advertising is a rapidly growing industry expected to hit $60 billion in the U.S. this year, according research firm eMarketer. Now that IBM has struck a deal to buy The Weather Company's digital products and technology business, the company may be positioning itself to take a chunk of that pie.

IBM announced Wednesday that it was acquiring The Weather Company's B2B, mobile and cloud-based Web properties. It said The Weather Company's divisions will help construct the new cognitive technology Watson IoT ("Internet of Things") unit and IoT Cloud platform.

It's more than being able to create a better weather forecaster. One of The Weather Company's digital properties is WeatherFX, a marketing platform that uses the weather to determine ideal digital ad placements. Deutsch's chief channel planning and investment officer, Anush Prabhu, said it has previously worked with The Weather Company to inform media planning for its clients.

"A lot of the decisions we make are emotional in nature, and weather does drive your emotions, " said Prabhu. "When it rains, the fact is you feel like something is wrong, or you feel like watching a movie. Even when you hearken back to your youth, a large part of our behavior is based on the emotions that weather advises."

WeatherFX's current recommendations could be as simple as knowing when it is raining in an area so potential customers can be shown images of all-season tires, said The Barbarian Group's director of analytics, Will Sandwick. The Barbarian Group has used IBM's technologies for its clients.

Or, it can determine other hard-to-see trends, like what type of weather will make you most likely to want to buy a beer. WeatherFX data have shown that Chicagoans were more likely to buy beer when experiencing three consecutive days of below-average temperature. For New York residents, they wanted a brew after three consecutive days of above-average temps.

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