NBCUniversal Commits $1 Billion in Annual Ad Inventory to Data-Based, Non-Nielsen Guarantees

Applies to both upfront and scatter markets

Brands that take advantage of NBCU's new data offering will have access to shows across its entire portfolio, including NBC's This Is Us.
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

NBCUniversal is taking the training wheels off its data platforms and committing $1 billion in ad inventory this year to transact with clients using data-based targeting and guarantees on non-Nielsen metrics.

The announcement, which applies to both the scatter and upcoming upfront markets, comes as the company unveiled its Audience Symphony platform, which taps into NBCU’s Symphony cross-platform offerings.

Under the new platform, an automotive company doing a new car launch could receive access to the most relevant audiences of potential car buyers across NBCUniversal’s portfolio, including broadcast, cable, digital and its partner companies like Vox Media, BuzzFeed, Snapchat and Apple News. The investment would be guaranteed to deliver against agreed-upon data metrics instead of the standard age and gender demos.

“We will agree on a business solution that our customers are looking for, separate from a C3 or a C7 rating, which really doesn’t tell a client anything about their business,” said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships for NBCUniversal. “This is now a business outcome that a customer is interested in. Whether it’s brand lift, awareness or sales, we will agree on that.”

The result is “an outcome of all the data capabilities that we have and a bringing together of a variety of different data sets that is fueled by the Comcast set-top-box data across all screens,” Yaccarino said. “We are giving the client the best of both worlds: the premium content that is truly responsible for the success of a brand with the laser targeting that they crave.”

We are giving the client the best of both worlds: the premium content that is truly responsible for the success of a brand with the laser-targeting that they crave.
Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships for NBCUniversal

At the same time, NBCUniversal is expanding its Audience Targeting Platform capabilities, which had only been available to limited brand segments during the upfront but will now be offered to all clients as well as in the scatter market. Meanwhile, its linear TV programmatic offering, which launched last year and was only available in scatter, will now be offered during the upfront as well.

Audience Symphony is the latest evolution of NBCUniversal’s Symphony cross-platform offering, which started as a way for the entire portfolio to rally behind a single company message. That was expanded to partnering with advertisers like Chase and Amazon Echo, whose messages were amplified across the portfolio.

This latest version will combine those capabilities with the company’s Audience Studio, which launched a year ago to streamline data-driven ad targeting.

By committing $1 billion of its annual ad inventory to fuel the Audience Studio in these efforts for all of its various data products, the company is showing confidence in its data products. “Last year, one of the biggest questions we got was, ‘Why do you think you’re only going to do $200-$500 million a year on this?’” said Yaccarino. “My answer was, ‘We want to learn what we don’t know, and we want to walk before we run. And we want to make good on our guarantees.'”

Yaccarino said today’s announcement isn’t related to her frustrations with Nielsen’s Total Content Ratings, or TCR, product, which she expressed in a letter to Nielsen execs in December when she asked the company to delay TCR’s release. (After others chimed in, including all of the broadcast network presidents, Nielsen modified its TCR rollout plan with only a “limited” release on March 1.)

“Do I wish Nielsen had a tool that a currency for cross-platform business guarantees? Of course I do. But they don’t,” Yaccarino said.

She said that until now, the company has “been handcuffed by the legacy of a measurement that doesn’t give clients what they need.

“We couldn’t get it from the way the market works now, so we built it ourselves,” she said, comparing today’s announcement to the company’s 2014 move away from transacting on Nielsen ratings at CNBC.

“We couldn’t get what we needed by established currencies from CNBC,” she said. “Guess what—the sky didn’t fall, and CNBC is more profitable than it’s been in a decade.”