After replacing 30 minutes of prime-time spots with branded content on Leap Day, NBC and American Express are teaming up again next week. But this time, the partnership will feature longer Today segments instead of linear branded content.
The weeklong partnership, which will once again highlight American Express' Blue Cash Everyday Card, begins on Monday, and will add 27 total additional minutes of programming to Today for the week. Monday's and Friday's shows will feature additional three-minute segments in place of the usual ad pods: in the "trending" portion of Today's 8 a.m. hour and the opening chats in the 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. hours. On Tuesday and Thursday, the 10 a.m. chats will also be extended by three minutes, while the 9 a.m. chat will be three minutes longer on Wednesday.
Unlike the Leap Day campaign, this partnership won't include any linear branded content to replace the eliminated ad pods.
"The content is all Today show content as we choose," said Mark Miller, evp, news advertising sales, NBCUniversal, with American Express having no say. However, those segments will include a verbal acknowledgment of American Express' role in eliminating what would normally be an ad break. An American Express bug will occasionally be featured on screen, most frequently during the 10 a.m. segment, hosted by Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford.
All Today.com video the week of Oct. 17 will also have a reduced preroll, sponsored by American Express, in lieu of its usual spots. Each day, American Express branded content in the form of Today show behind-the-scenes video will be posted to Today.com and on the show's digital and social platforms.
It's an extension of February's Leap Day stunt in which 30 minutes of national prime-time spots were replaced with branded content. The daylong campaign began on Today and extended through Late Night With Seth Meyers. (BuzzFeed, which created shareable content as part of the Leap Day campaign in its first sales partnership since NBCUniversal's $200 million investment in 2015, is not part of the new Today activation.)
The Leap Day campaign was a success for American Express, which "saw a tremendously favorable response in terms of brand favorability and general interest in the card. It really helped us to break through during what was a fairly cluttered time early in our launch phase," said Jill Hamilton, vp, U.S. media and sponsorships, American Express.
American Express noted that it got its most viewer engagement during the Today show segments. "You pair that with the amazing talent at NBC who were so authentically able to integrate us into that program, and it truly did deliver on what consumers wanted more of," said Hamilton. "We really decided to lean into that the second time and focus on that segment of the day where we had the broadest audience, and also allow us to reinforce the everyday nature and how we give you more consistently over the course of the week as opposed to a single day."
Added Miller: "This timing just worked out. As in a news cycle like this, what we're currently seeing around the election, news is very hot right now." With the holiday season approaching, "there's a lot going on that they wanted to lean into around this time of year," he added.
American Express opted to spotlight the Blue Cash Everyday Card again, which Hamilton called "one of our most popular products and one of the fastest growing cards in our portfolio for consumers."
(The partnership's behind-the-scenes branded content doesn't include any footage of Billy Bush, who is currently negotiating his exit from Today after being suspended for his involvement in a vulgar discussion with Donald Trump about groping women without their consent while taping an Access Hollywood segment in 2005. An NBCUniversal source said that Bush was never a part of the campaign, even before the Access Hollywood tape surfaced.)
NBC and American Express are open to a third partnership down the line.
"It depends on if it's the right fit," said Miller. "We wouldn't be doing it again if it wasn't successful for both of us, so we'll look for opportunities to do this in the future."