Unable to put on its upfront pitch at Radio City in May, NBCUniversal put its star-studded upfront message on television.
But first, NBCUniversal previewed its primetime upfront pitch reuniting the cast of 30 Rock for a one-hour special episode as the finale of a Creative Summit for ad clients and media buyers Thursday afternoon.
The summit talked about the importance of creativity in solving business problems and the ways NBCU can work with marketers.
“This special is the epitome of inspired collaboration. It’s marketers and creatives from our amazing talent and creative partnerships all coming together, adapting to unprecedented circumstances, innovating and bringing millions of viewers together for an upfront like no other,” Linda Yaccarino, NBCU’s chairman for ad sales and client partnerships said at the summit.
Yaccarino noted that since the COVID-19 crisis began, creativity and bold ideas have been required to solve the challenges the industry has faced.
“When I talk about how our industry needs to transform and how transformation is a shared responsibility, creativity is how we're actually doing it,” she said. This upfront special is what creativity looks like in every sense of the word.”
Over the past couple of months, other programmers have made virtual presentations, some more elaborate than others. Yaccarino said creating a TV episode about the TV business was a really big deal.
“This is the most radical change to the upfront marketplace since its inception in 1962. For the first time ever, we’re inviting viewers all across America to the upfront. And even though we’re not at Radio City, we’re showing what an upfront looks like on an even bigger stage,” Yaccarino said.
“When future advertising history books are written, they’ll show that today was the day the upfront changed forever,” she said.
In the episode, Kenneth the Page (played by Jack McBrayer) is the chairman of NBC, but he misses his friends and tries to get them back by rebooting TGS, the show produced by Liz Lemon (Tina Fey). It does not go well.
Kenneth picks the new NBC schedule and will present at the network’s virtual upfront presentation. He’s introduced by Jimmy Fallon.
“NBCUniversal has it all and we’re blowing up the old advertising. Sales messages don’t need to be an interruption we’re going to find ways to make your [an announcer’s voice says ‘dog food, insurance, type 2 diabetes medication’] a seamless part of the story,” Fallon says, before Kenneth pops up on the screen.
Soon Kenneth is interrupted as the TGS characters Zoom bomb the presentation to serenade him to the tune of The Brady Bunch theme.
“I cannot believe you interrupted the most important day of the television calendar to serenade me with the theme song of an ABC show,” Kenneth reacts. “You embarrassed me in front of the people from Target and Dove and Toyota and Wayfair.com and App and the Almond Growing Council and anyone else who would like to be on this list.”
Kenneth asks Jack (Alec Baldwin) and Liz to review the prime shows he picked, while Tracy (Tracy Morgan) continues the upfront presentation (with a nod to "Linda Yaca-ranio").
“The future of advertising isn’t impressions, it’s impact,” Tracy says, reading Kenneth’s talking points. At NBC “your ad dollars reach the exact person you want to reach, whether they’re watching Betty in New York on Telemundo, classic Frasier on Peacock or long music videos for Joe Scarborough’s band on MSNBC. No other company can bring you this approach. No other company could bring you this level of talent.”
The upfront is wrapped up with Jenna (Jane Krakowski) singing the NBCUniversal Anthem: “Where should you buy your ads? It’s so clear. Joy is Universal. Fun is Universal. Awesome is Universal. Some phone chargers are universal. Say it enough and it’s true.”
The presentation and the schedule are a success and Jack is offered the job of launching Peahen, a female-centric streaming service. Jack asks Liz to write material for his sales meeting. “I don't do industrials,” Liz replies.
Instead of commercials, the 30 Rock special features trailers and promos for NBCU programs, news, sports and Olympics and even rides at the company’s theme parks.
The show ends with a placard that says: “Everything you saw tonight was shot safely at home, with the help of family, and guided remotely by our awesome 30 Rock crew. It was bananas.”
Starting Friday, the special will appear on NBCU’s cable networks and will be available on demand and on Peacock.
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