IBM's Weather Company Launches Cold and Flu App Tracker
By   |  October 12, 2016

The Weather Company, an IBM Business, announced today a new cold and flu experience that will leverage real-time sentiment data to provide updates on cold and flu activity at a hyperlocal level. The Cold and Flu Tracker, sponsored by GSK Consumer Healthcare’s Theraflu brand, is available on weather.com,Theraflu.com, and The Weather Channel app. Previously, users may not have been aware of cold and flu activity in their state until the weekly CDC flu report was released. Now, users will know in real-time when cold and flu activity is spiking in their area, and can take action to help protect themselves from the virus.

“Our goal at Weather is to create experiences that engage, educate, and delight our fans, and we know when we do that, marketers benefit too,” said Jeremy Steinberg, global head of sales, The Weather Company. “Our new Cold and Flu Tracker will help our fans get ahead of flu activity as much as possible, and by doing that, we know we’re adding tremendous value to their experience with us. Leveraging Sickweather and Watson Ads helps us further connect the dots for our users and marketers in order to keep people informed – in this case, about illness rather than weather conditions.”

The Cold & Flu Tracker is powered by data from Sickweather, the world’s first real-time map of sickness and the largest illness crowdsourcing community of its kind, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). For the first time on Weather properties, Sickweather will monitor real-time social conversations and analyze the social sentiment with cognitive capabilities such as machine learning and natural language processing to help identify cold and flu activity.

On The Weather Channel app, users can access localized real-time cold and flu activity information through the health module, which will include a dial for current local “Cold & Flu” conditions, a “heat map” of hyperlocal cold and flu activity, as well as current and historical CDC reports. On weather.com and Theraflu.com, visitors will have access to the “heat map,” an interactive map with national and hyperlocal cold and flu activity based on sentiment data to show where cold and flu conversations are happening across the country, as well as current and historical CDC reports, local weather forecast information, and relevant cold and flu seasonal content.

The new Cold & Flu Tracker is part of GSK’s overall campaign to launch the new Theraflu ExpressMax™ Caplets, which includes:

A custom Cold & Flu sentiment trigger to deliver targeted advertising based on local social conversations and weather conditions
Retail extensions to leverage sentiment data and first-party location data to reach consumers who are in close proximity to stores located in markets with cold and flu activity
Off-property media activation enabling GSK to use the sentiment trigger on platforms and publishers beyond Weather, to help inform consumers as part of a holistic marketing strategy

“Weather’s Cold and Flu Tracker is a truly unique and powerful concept that gives consumers the opportunity to get ahead and be prepared for the flu season as much as possible,” said Theresa Agnew, chief marketing officer, GSK Consumer Healthcare. “The combination of social sentiment and cognitive learning will not only inform and advise consumers, but it will provide fantastic insights for the marketing team as well in terms of knowing when to merchandise and market the Theraflu® brand in different areas throughout the country.”

“Social media is often the first place cold and flu outbreaks become evident, and it’s the only place where we can track them in real-time,” said Graham Dodge, Chief Executive Officer, Sickweather. “Working with The Weather Company to surface these outbreak areas to their wider audience could have huge positive implications. The more people with access to this information, the more people there will be proactively making healthier choices to prevent themselves and others around them from getting sick and therefore missing work or school, not to mention helping the elderly and medically fragile populations avoid life-threatening illnesses.”

In addition, the Theraflu  brand will be the first GSK Consumer Healthcare brand to leverage Watson Ads, an industry-first capability in which consumers are able to interact with IBM Watson through advertising. Consumers will be able to interact with the Theraflu ad via voice or text and ask Watson questions like “How long is the flu contagious?” Watson’s machine learning and natural language capabilities will allow the ad unit to provide relevant responses. GSK Consumer Healthcare was previously announced as one of the first marketers collaborating with Weather on Watson Ads.

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