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How The Weather Channel's "Twitter Tornado" became a viral bombshell

How The Weather Channel's "Twitter Tornado" became a viral bombshell David Zaleski

Marketing The Weather Channel's "Tornado Week"

When Brandon Uffner, manager of TV marketing for The Weather Channel, was tasked to come up with a creative way to launch "Tornado Week," he didn't know that his efforts would ultimately lead to one of the most creative campaigns in recent memory.

The first step for the brand was to find a partner who could help create viral buzz, especially in the social space. So how did they find the mobile and social media marketing agency, Vert? Simple; they Googled it. Vert popped up in a basic web search as a social media marketing agency that was known for doing innovative things and shattering modern conventions. Once Vert was hired, that's exactly what it did.

Kevin Planovsky, co-founder and principle of account strategy at Vert, brought several ideas to The Weather Channel for making "Tornado Week" a viral sensation. The team eventually settled on an unconventional idea; the Twitter tornado. Here's the concept; they would put interns in a room to work alongside with industrial strength fans. The fans were turned on and would increase in strength every time someone used the hashtag #tornadoweek on Twitter. Oh yeah, and the whole thing would be live casted. It was a unique and risky idea that both Vert and The Weather Channel were excited to implement.

In this interview, iMedia speaks with Uffner from The Weather Channel and Planovsky from Vert, about the genesis of this unconventional social media strategy.

The campaign and the aftermath

Once Vert and The Weather Channel put the campaign together, it was time to launch. A nervous Brandon Uffner waited for the first hashtag, and it quickly rolled in. Soon, hashtags from all over the country were tweeted and the fans got stronger and stronger in the interns' work environment. With the campaign being live casted, the whole country began to witness the earnest Weather Channel interns hilariously try to work in an uncontrollable wind tunnel. The campaign was made even more hysterical by the fact that Twitter users were in control of the whole thing. If the hashtags stopped, the "tornado" stopped. It was that simple. But the hashtags didn't stop, and by the end of the campaign, 50,000 hashtags had been tweeted, generating winds up to 140 miles per hour.

Brandon and Kevin continue our conversation by explaining what is was like to actually launch this unique social media campaign and the results they saw from participants looking to blow some interns into oblivion.

What's next?

While next year's Tornado Week is still a ways off, The Weather Channel may already be planning a sequel to their innovative social media campaign. The plans are to-be-determined, but there's no doubt that next year we can expect to see something just as crazy, creative, and unique from this brand. It has proven it is willing to gamble big.

So what advice would The Weather Channel give marketers looking to emulate this success? Don't be afraid to try risky things. Let's face it. A lot of people (not just marketers) are afraid to take chances and risk big when the stakes are high. However, The Weather Channel has shown with this campaign that the phrase "high risk, high reward" carries deep merit. If you are looking to spice up an ad campaign or find a unique approach to a stale strategy, connect with partners who can help you truly think outside the box, and don't be afraid to flirt with unconventional ideas. Like this one, sometimes the best ideas sound the most insane.

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"Man's toupee blown away by wind" image via Shutterstock.

David Zaleski is the Media Production Supervisor for iMedia Communications, Inc. and Comexposium USA. He graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a BA in Film & Television Production, specializing in editing, animation, and...

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