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NBCU Pushes Creativity at Cannes Ad Festival

After pushing data and technology as ways to improve TV commercials, NBCUniversal is going to the Cannes advertising festival extolling the virtues of creativity.

“No algorithm out there can replace creativity,” said Josh Feldman executive VP, head of marketing and advertising creative at NBCU.

During the conference NBCU will host a series of events designed to show how it can help the people who make ads make them more engaging and effective. NBCU has lined up Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels, former SNL cast member Ana Gasteyer and singer Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic and NBCU’s series Songland, as ambassadors to the creative community.

It will also show off its new ad formats, including one called “Must Hear TV.”

The pivot from tech to creativity showcases NBCU’s content creation.

“Look at our industry over the past few years. There’s been a very understandable lean towards technology, whether that’s data or whether that’s audience targeting,” said Feldman. “At the end of the day, I feel very strongly that you could target and reach that exact right person that may be interested in purchasing your brand, but if you reach them with bad creative that doesn’t break through the clutter, it’s all for naught anyway.”

“Cannes is the home to the best and brightest creative minds in our industry,” said Feldman. 

“We’re going there to put our flag in the ground and claim our place as a home to fantastic storytelling and a fantastic place for creatives to partner with,” he said.

NBCU is highlighting a number of ways it can work with advertising creative people.

The first way is by working with NBCU’s intellectual property and the talent the media giant employs both in front of and behind the camera.

On a show like the new music competition series, Songland, a sponsor, Jeep, aired a two-minute video called More Than Just Words about the Star Spangled Banner that feature music performed by OneRepublic. The video generated 106 million views.

NBCU supports creativity with the artificial intelligence-driven system it uses to put commercials adjacent to scenes in shows where there will be contextual relevance. 

NBCU also showcases commercials with its one-minute Prime Pods, with interactive Picture-in-Picture ads and with its and with integrated Scripted Commercial Launches, which seamlessly take the viewer from show to spot.

New from NBCU is “Must Hear TV,” commercial executions in which the picture goes dark and iconic sounds from brands draw the viewer’s attention back to the screen.

NBCU will be delivering its message about “The Power of Storytelling” over several days in Cannes.

On Tuesday, Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, who appear in Songland, will speak. “Ryan is not only the lead vocalist of OneRepublic, but he’s also a songwriter. So when we talk about storytelling at NBCU, Ryan will be a great voice for us,” Feldman said. “He very well aware of how to tell a story through the TV show and how we partnered with some really iconic brands to tell a very unique story during Songland.

During the conference NBCU will hold a series of Master Classes. One will address the power of comedy and storytelling and will feature SNL’s Ana Gasteyer and Britta von Schoeler, president of Loren Michaels’ Broadway Video production company.

Finally on Thursday, Lorne Michaels, who is being honored by the Cannes Lions as entertainment person of the year, will take the stage with Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships at NBCU.

While NBCU will be putting on a program in Cannes, its mission is to listen to the advertising creative. “It’s about learning what they do and what’s important to them and how we can work together differently. Creativity is key to success for us and for our brands and that’s what viewers and fans and consumers really care about,” Feldman said. “When all three of those things work together, great creative, great data and great distribution, that’s the Holy Grail.”

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.