When NBC’s This Is Us returns Tuesday night, it will have a new good neighbor.
State Farm, which has advertised on the hit drama since it launched, will air a series of three branded video pieces created by NBCUniversal Creative Partnerships that will appear during different episodes of the show, each followed by a 30-second commercial.
Like This is Us, State Farm’s video will use flashbacks and flash forwards to tell the story of a family. To deepen the connection between the show and the sponsor, the videos feature voiceovers by Justin Hartley, who plays Kevin, the eldest of the Pearson triplets.
The State Farm video will also be distributed by NBCU’s Social Synch and will be available on an NBC.com web page. NBCU is also crating complimentary original content complimentary content on BuzzFeed and Vox Media, NBCU’s strategic partners.
The effort will be promoted with a campaign calling on family to submit pictures of items that are special to their family. The campaign will be tweeted on the This Is Us Twitter handle, which will post meaningful Pearson family items.
Because This Is Us generates both high ratings and water-cooler buzz, selling spots isn’t as tough, even at the reported $455,000 NBC charges.
“There’s the people who are just looking at the tremendous reach and ratings of the show, and then you have the other people who really want to connect deeper with the show,” says Mark Marshall, executive VP, entertainment sales group, NBCU.
The network and the producers of This is Us have tried not to overexpose the show commercially, but retailer TJ Maxx has run branded content inspired by the show the last two falls.
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Marshall said that upon seeing the pilot, he though State Farm would be a good fit as a sponsor because of its history of storytelling. “You don’t necessarily think of insurance as an emotional buy, but it is. You’re insuring the livelihood and the health of your family if you’re not around and nothing really more emotional than that,” he said.
NBCU reached out to State Farm, which bought ads, but hadn’t done anything with the show on a large scale till now.
“This is Us, which is obviously one of the best-written family dramas out there, is certainly one we took a look at from the get-go last year during the upfronts,” says Ed Gold, advertising director at State Farm, which worked with media agency OMD and promotion agency TMD on the project.. “Going into this year we wanted to try to extend our presence in there and do something with the show directly.”
Gold said State Farm tried to get on board early this season to be first in line to forms a partnership with the show as its ratings increased.
“Certainly we would love to have been integrated into the show,” says Gold, who said he has “no doubt that Mr. Pearson covered his family well with life insurance” before he died. “
The network and show runners disagreed. “They are not looking to junk up the show with product placement unless it was a natural fit.I am absolutely sure he provided well for his family, being the great dad that he is in the show.”
Though creating branded content might not have been first choice of State Farm, which was integrated into an episode of ABC’s Black-ish last year, it has its advantages.
“Usually when you do a branded integration into a program it’s usually a one and done,” Gold says “This will have an extended life over three week, again in what is one of the highest rated shows in primetime television right now.”
The videos will also on local station, in NBC affiliated taxicabs and in some out-of-home settings.
Gold couldn’t say how much this effort cost.
“There’s no way to break it out. It’s part of the overall package that we did upfront with NBC. So there’s no way to break out the exact cost, but from that standpoint there’s certainly also the amount of time cost and effort that goes into this as well,” he says. “This is certainly one that we wanted to put in the time and effort to do right.”
Gold says the effort is worth it. “This is something that comes together because of a true partnership between the networks, our agencies, and ourselves and I just want to say NBC’s been a great partner on this,” he says.
Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.
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