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Cannes Lions

The Weather Company’s Cannes Lions activation aims to make weather data sexy with generative AI

Two beachgoers sit under an umbrella as raining cookies shatter on it.

Illustration by Esther Park / Getty / The Current

There’s no doubt that at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the weather is on full display — from wind to sunshine to even rain. It’s appropriate, then, that one of the more elaborate activations along the Croisette this year comes from IBM’s The Weather Company.

It’s the first time that IBM is bringing The Weather Company to life at Cannes, following its rebranding of machine learning system IBM Watson in April. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a major focus of the two-story experience, which invites visitors into the space across from the Palais through a giant raindrop.

The Weather Company leans on AI to help drive business outcomes and offer more informed insights. In a statement in May, the company’s CEO, Sheri Bachstein, said that a mix of “advanced AI and technology plus human expertise” sets The Weather Company apart from potential competitors in forecasting.

The Weather Company, which reaches 400 million people across its properties like and Weather Underground, aims to showcase weather as the original influencer through generative AI and art. Its ultimate goal is to convey to marketers just how impactful weather data can be to their campaigns.

The Weather Company at Cannes 2023

“Weather obviously influences consumer behavior and mindset,” explains Crystal Park, head of marketing at The Weather Company, walking The Current through the experience. “For marketers we’re really trying to bring weather data out of the subconscious.”

But, as Park questions, how does one “make weather data sexy”? The Weather Company’s answer to that is on the first floor, where visitors see catalytic moments when weather impacted history. Up-and-coming international artists used Midjourney and generative AI to interpret what those events would have looked like if the weather had been different.

For example, it has long been believed that a battlefield muddied by rain contributed to the French army’s defeat at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo. Using generative AI, the experience shows visitors what might have happened if the rain hadn’t interfered: a sunny, smiling Napoleon standing in victory.

Another art piece celebrates 50 years of hip-hop since a heat wave in New York sparked a blackout and a gathering of musicians in the streets, who played and partied together with their generators. The work also illustrates what the next 50 years of Hip Hop's influence could look like, impacting everything from fashion to dance.

50 Years of Hip Hop at Cannes 2023
Art by Alex Fefegha

“Because we’re showing up as a new brand, it was super important to us to make sure that people wanted to be in this space, [and] knew that it was weather first,” says Park.

The second floor showcases case studies from mainstream brands that have strategically used The Weather Company’s data to propel their campaigns forward, including Toyota, E.l.f. Cosmetics, and McCormick. Accompanying the case studies are sculptures that fuse its brand identity with its weather strategy using the help of AI.

The Weather Company is able to tap in to its consumer base to help brands target campaigns using weather signals. For instance, E.l.f. used the insight that 8 in 10 women change their beauty routine based on the weather in a holiday campaign, which then drove a 9.2 percent increase in brand awareness, a 6.5 percent increase in purchase intent, and a 8.9 percent uptick in brand consideration.

In another example, Toyota used the insight that 80 percent of people check the weather when planning road trips and leveraged The Weather Company’s outdoor activity weather trigger for its “Let’s Go Places” campaign to serve inspiring messages during peak weather moments. The car brand saw a 42 percent higher click-through rate and a four-time decrease in every cost per site visit.

“Our secret weapon — our value to the advertising industry — is how much weather data and insights we have,” says Park. “We’re helping consumers to [turn to us] beyond the day to day and more for long-term planning, whether it’s for entertainment purposes or whether it’s for their health and wellness.”

Art sculpture of an eye inside red lips