Since 2018, NBCUniversal has accelerated its efforts to create new ad formats, rolling out around 10 new offerings annually for marketers. The company is keeping its streak alive this year, unveiling 11 new ad formats today ahead of tonight’s NBCU upfront event, which will be broadcast on NBC and is doubling as a 30 Rock reunion, with the sitcom’s cast hosting the event in character.
After previously rolling out new formats like prime pods (its 60-second pod of audience-targeted advertising) and ShoppableTV (shoppable ads), NBCU works each year to “create opportunities for marketers to take advantage of, that are both a better viewing experience for our fans and consumers at home, while also creating a more effective ad environment for our advertisers,” said Josh Feldman, evp, head of marketing and advertising creative, NBCUniversal. “We all know that the traditional way of funneling programming into a commercial pod [back] into programming has gotten a little tiresome, and we needed to improve that.”
This year’s new formats are grouped into three different categories: talent, content and sensory experiences. And while they are being announced the day of NBCUniversal’s upfront presentation, they will be available immediately in the scatter market and won’t be held back until the upfront.
The talent formats include The Talent Room, which connects brands with talent across the NBCU portfolio that is the best fit, whether that is cat lovers or chefs. “An influencer isn’t just about having the highest-rated television show; an influencer is about having a fan base that’s dedicated to them and passionate, and wants to hear what they’re saying,” said Feldman.
NBCU leaned on The Talent Room to find the 19 guest stars who appear in the 30 Rock upfront event, said Feldman. “We used it ourselves when trying to figure out who the perfect guest stars were based upon the script and the needs that [30 Rock co-showrunners] Tina Fey and Robert Carlock came up with.”
Also in the talent category, 1:1 Talent Surprise allows viewers and talent to interact via a branded video chat during an ad pod, courtesy of that night’s sponsor. “It’s a way to get our fans more directly associated with the talent in real time,” said Feldman, but “we will only do it with the appropriate talent and brands. It’s got to be the right match.”
The final talent format, Set on Set, will bring viewers onto a TV set with talent to hear a brand’s message.
The content formats include ProductSync, a recommendation tool for marketers using AdSmart’s audience data to optimize where their products appear in custom content or product placement, which was first discussed during May’s One Industry Update for marketers. For example, for travel brands, ProductSync could find which NBCU shows overindex the highest on high-frequency travelers.
The (This) Matters format gives brands like health care, tech, style and personal travel an opportunity to tell a thematic story, while 1221 Films will offer long-form branded content opportunities for marketers.
Brand Experience takes product integration to a new level where marketers work with NBCU writers, producers and talent to add their brands and stories into the portfolio’s shows.
The final content category format, Next Gen News, enables Gen Z creators to make news stories for their generation with a brand overwriting the program. However, Feldman said, this is on pause during the pandemic until schools can reopen and the company is able to work with students on the format.
The third category, sensory experience, was initially going to be called “experiences” until the pandemic hit, and consumers could no longer participate in experiential public events.
Brand Vision, an example of a format that “draws a bigger spotlight to a brand’s creative,” said Feldman, will use a brand’s signature color palette to connect the programming leading directly into the ad pod. The result “feels like a very seamless transition” and keeps consumers engaged, said Feldman, much as they were for NBCU’s “must-hear TV” format, which debuted last fall with a Royal Caribbean spot.