Cloud Nine Launches High-Impact WiFi Ad Network

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

Cloud Nine Media, San Francisco, has officially launched its premium WiFi advertising network after concluding a successful pilot running since mid-2010 with a small group of brand advertisers.

Currently, Cloud Nine is running a promotion for Google Earth and NORAD to let travelers track Santa this holiday season.

With the new network, advertisers receive positive brand engagement in exchange for supporting free public WiFi in over 6,000 trusted locations across the U.S..

Users connecting to WiFi in participating Cloud Nine locations see a 100% share-of-voice, high-impact message from a sponsor before being granted free, unlimited Internet access.

“Free WiFi is something everybody appreciates,” says Sebastian Tonkin, Cloud Nine co-founder, former Google product manager, and author of the book Performance Marketing with Google Analytics. (Cloud Nine co-founder is Henry Liu, technical lead, who earlier co-founded Incitebot.)

“The beauty of this model is that advertisers can become part of that positive experience and take advantage of a captive, full screen format at the same time,” says Tonkin. “Users get free WiFi, venues offset their costs, and advertisers get guaranteed engagement. In other words, everybody wins.”

The demand for safe public WiFi access has grown with the ubiquity of WiFi-enabled smartphones, laptops, tablets and gaming devices. A recent study by In-Stat estimated that global hotspot sessions will number 11 billion by 2014, and the WiFi Alliance estimates 2 billion WiFi-enabled devices will be shipped by 2015.

Advertisers participating in the 12-month pilot included Google, smartUSA, Old Spice, and Air Lingus.

“What’s great about Cloud Nine’s format is that it allowed us to combine branding with direct response elements within a single campaign,” says Julie Zhou, former product marketing manager for mobile at Google and now head of marketing at start-up travel search engine Hipmunk. “I’ve been impressed with Cloud Nine during my time at Google and I look forward to the results Cloud Nine will deliver for Hipmunk’s 2012 campaign.”

A recent Adweek Media/Harris poll showed that 43% of consumer respondents chose online banner ads as the advertising they’d most likely ignore. With this ‘banner blindness’ apparently on the upswing, Cloud Nine recognizes that media companies need to keep innovating to stay ahead of the curve.

Cloud Nine’s management says that its network fills a highly-demanded need, using an ad format that provides unique benefits for advertisers, including:

  • High-quality, full-screen: Cloud Nine gives advertisers 100% share of voice while creating a sense of goodwill with the consumer who receives free WiFi access;
  • High-impact, interactive video options: Advertisers can choose between 15 second and 30 second interstitial, as well as the ability to add a direct-response action;
  • Brand-safe locations: The Cloud Nine WiFi network is made up of trusted, well-known hotspots;
  • Detailed targeting: Advertisers can tailor ads to consumers by their venue, their geography, the device they are accessing the WiFi on, and other demographics;
  • Creative support: Cloud Nine helps advertisers design ads specifically for the Cloud Nine network using the advertiser’s collateral.

Cloud Nine has executed sponsorship campaigns in nine of the top 50 U.S. airports to date – among them: Las Vegas McCarran, Charlotte Douglas and Seattle-Tacoma International. Pilot campaigns have also run in thousands of individual hotel, café, transit and retail locations in the US, Canada and the UK. These included sponsored Wi-Fi on Virgin Trains in the UK and with various hotels in Canada.

“Cloud Nine has been a terrific partner,”
says Janet Godfrey, advertising manager, Charlotte Douglas International Airport. “We are very pleased with the creative ways Cloud Nine has generated revenue while maintaining a user-friendly passenger experience.”

Matt Koch, vice-president of operations for Telkonet, one of the largest publicly traded WiFi operators in the US, says, “Cloud Nine campaigns are well thought out and valuable to the end consumer.”

We’ve been told that, in addition to the U.S., Cloud Nine has an arrangement with about 300 hotels in Canada as well as a partnership with Vancouver Airport – so have inventory available in Canada and can run campaigns there, as well. And for the U.K., it has a number of locations lined up that will become available in the first quarter of 2012.

As Cloud Nine enters 2012, the company aims to aggressively expand its partner network to deliver on the growing demand from agencies and advertisers for state-of-the-art brand campaigns that reach users in both meaningful and measurable ways.

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