NBCU Offers New Ad Formats Aimed at Engaging Viewers

NBCUniversal Ad Innovations
(Image credit: NBCUniversal)

Like they used to say in commercials, but wait, there’s more.

In its continuing effort to make commercials more engaging for viewers and more effective for marketers, NBCUniversal has come back from its lab with another nine ways to deliver advertising messages.

NBCU has been in the commercial innovation business for five years, ever since it decided that it would remain ad supported in a changing TV where some competitors saw being ad free as a compelling strategy and product attribute.

“Our company was steadfast and committed to being ad-supported everywhere we show up, whether that’s streaming or linear or digital or social,” Josh Feldman, global chief marketing office at NBCUniversal, advertising & partnerships, told Broadcasting+Cable.

NBCU has rolled out 60 innovations, most recently at its One 22 tech presentation in April and last week at Peacock’s new front. With a ton of research in the books, Feldman says that viewers are 88% more likely to remember the brand when they see it in one of the new formats and 79% less likely to change the channel.

“If we see one isn’t selling or one isn’t quite as effective as the rest, we’re not afraid to sunset those commercial innovations,” he said. “But we’ve also seen that the vast majority of them have been incredibly successful, so we just keep adding new ones and keep the ones that are working out there.” 

Importantly, the innovations are somewhat more important with younger viewers, the ones most advertisers are keen to reach, Feldman added.

NBCUniversal Advertising

(Image credit: NBCUniversal)

The newest edition of NBC commercial innovation starts with the Attention Lab. That’s where NBCU marries its art with science, according to Collette Winn, VP, strategy & operations, creative partnerships, NBCUniversal. In the lab, NBCU tests branded content and creative and does tracking with storyboards and rough cuts to make sure they’re engaging and to fill in any spots where viewer attention dips.

The other new ad formats are:

Retro Ads, which are produced to look and feel like period pieces and intended to air during shows set in the past. One example was an ad for Wendy’s breakfast sandwiches during Annie! Live. “A retro ad in a show that isn’t retro in nature would probably be less effectives, but we’re being very specific on contextually placing these innovations where they’re going to work best,” Feldman said.

The AR Portal uses augmented reality to {bring NBC’s fan base into the metaverse of our shows,” said Winn. With a QR code on one’s phone, your avatar appears in the Top Chef kitchen so you can feel like you’re cooking alongside the chef. “It’s an immersive experience that creates an incredible opportunity for brands to come and play,” she said. NBCU executed some elements of the AR Portal for Verizon during last year’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Picture-In-Picture Expanded Storytelling lets a sponsor bring viewers backstage during a tentpole event like the Latin Billboard Awards on Telemundo. Again a QR code gives the viewer access, with the brand fully integrated into the experience. “It isn’t a sponsored-by. The advertiser is more woven in,” Winn said.

The Shop Drop pulls all of the elements of NBCU’s commercial arsenal, including talent, livestreams and opportunities to scan codes and buy products. “At the right moment when a client wants to drop a new product launch, we can drive marquee attention to it at scale and pull all of our levers,” she said. “It’s a symphony of commerce and activation.”

Double Box Creative in Context put ad messages on the screen when they’re most relevant. For example, when NFL star Patrick Mahomes takes the field, one of the State Farm commercials he’s in can appear on the screen at the same time. Or when Halle Berry is on the red carpet, her commercial for L’Oreal shows up. “It’s a tremendous mechanism to be able to bring a brand into the content and connect it contextually as close as possible,” Winn said.

The NBCU Social Studio helps clients tap into pop culture moments and trending conversations, with NBCU content on its own digital platform and with social media partners.

Interactive Countdown Clock lets advertisers capitalize the anticipation building around a scheduled event. NBCU is already using the countdown format to signal to viewers when its brief prime pods are going to end and content will resume. An advertisers could use the Countdown Clock to let viewers know when a Real Housewives reunion is coming up and lean into the hype and the excitement, Winn said.

Sequential Storytelling is designed to use first-party data to take a targeted audience through the marketing funnel from awareness to purchase. The first ad would make those viewers aware of a travel package. Those viewers next would see an ad highlighting the destination's spa facilities. After that, commerce-enabled create would be deployed to get actual booking.

The new innovations are available immediately and will be part of NBCU’s upfront discussions, Feldman said. ■

Jon Lafayette

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.