NBCU develops creative quality controls for digital ads

NBC and Peacock streaming service logos
(Credit: Getty Images)

The new technology aims to create a better viewing experience for the consumer and, in turn, the advertiser.

Anyone who has streamed TV for free knows how annoying the ad experience can be.

Repetitive ads, choppy transitions and uncomfortably loud volumes on commercials are just a few of the things viewers have to deal with on ad-supported streaming platforms, largely thanks to the complexity of how ads are served on connected TV (CTV) behind the scenes.

NBCUniversal, which has a long history of serving a clean, linear ad experience to consumers on its networks, wanted to solve this issue for its streaming platform, Peacock. So it built a suite of tools, called the creative automation suite, that aims to standardize creative delivery to create a more pristine experience for the viewer across all of its digital ad products.

“A big piece behind the scenes is ensuring an ad always shows up as really high quality,” said Ryan McConville, EVP of ad platforms and operations at NBCUniversal.

The suite automatically tests ads for basic indications of creative quality, including the resolution, file size and format of a piece of creative, before it's served as an ad to a viewer. It also ensures an ad won’t crash or buffer, puts in audio checks so ad breaks aren’t too loud and “pulses” ads periodically to ensure nothing about the file has changed. Most importantly, the tool checks if the description of an ad matches the ad that’s actually delivered.

While the tool is mostly focused on ad quality, the creative automation suite can also scan creative for competitive issues, problematic phrasing or anything that could cause concern around business violations, said Mike Levin, senior director, video products, customer solutions at NBCUniversal.

Crucially, the suite can automatically deactivate ads that violate quality standards or business rules.

“This tool has given us a lot of workflow automation,” Levin said. “If there were issues historically, campaigns would shut off. Now, we have detailed information to explain the issue, what the problem was and work on course correcting.”

While the creative automation suite is first and foremost about providing a better viewing experience, it also benefits advertisers by lighting up campaigns more quickly, delivering a better quality viewing experience and generating information on ad delivery that wasn’t previously available.

“The system catches things before they become a problem,” McConville said. “Especially in digital where you rotate creative and put things through programmatic pipes, it’s not as organized. It’s much faster paced. The market has a need for these types of tools as CTV starts to scale.”

So far, the creative automation suite has led to a 99% success rate in quality ad delivery since it launched on Peacock, compared with an industry average of 70%.

The creative automation suite is the latest set of tools NBCUniversal has developed to deliver a better advertising experience on Peacock, which is committed to remaining a destination for advertisers despite the rise of ad-free streaming. Peacock has focused on maintaining a light ad load and developed various creative innovations including commerce integrations.

“We take very seriously that Peacock is the leading premium, ad-supported CTV experience in the market,” McConville said.

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