NBCU innovates beyond the 30-second spot

The network is rolling out new commercial formats ahead of its upfront.

NBCUniversal has been innovating on its ad formats as viewers tune out the 30-second spot.

On Thursday, the network announced new ad innovations that aim to better engage viewers in advertiser messages and encourage them to take action.

Among the new ad units, which will be available to purchase in this year’s upfront, are quick-turn creative executions that respond to real-time conversation and deeper custom integrations with NBCU content and talent.

The goal is to “take content creation and product development to make advertising more enjoyable and effective,” said Josh Feldman, CMO for NBCUniversal’s Advertising and Partnerships group.

“Advertising works, and that's why this business is still alive and thriving,” he said. “But we know consumers have a plethora of options, and a lot of them are not ad-supported.”

Some of the new ad units build on NBCU’s growing commerce offering. @homeShopping, for example, is an interactive shopping network that brings popular actors into people’s living rooms as AR holograms pitching brands’ products.

Others take a leaf out of the social media book by allowing viewers to participate in brand communications. Choose Your Own Destiny lets people vote on the creative execution they want to see in their next ad break, while Look Live helps brands optimize creative to match trending news within 36 hours.

NBCU is also taking the opportunity to “lean into the power of IP” with its new ad formats, said Colette Winn, VP of strategy and operations, creative partnerships, at NBCU.

Stay in Show, for example, integrates brands within the narrative of a show, and Interactive Scripted Commercial Launch uses 2D and 3D technology to integrate the brand as a show transitions to an ad break. Take:15 gets NBCU talent to kick off a spot to catch viewer attention.

“What makes it different within our ecosystem is how authentic it is to our content,” Winn said. “We have incredible tentpoles like the red carpet, to breaking news and stock market volatility. We can get them on air in those moments.”

As viewers move away from ad-supported TV, NBCU is doubling down on advertising in both linear TV and on its streaming platform, Peacock. According to the media giant, 93% of people appreciate commercial innovations and 79% are less likely to change the channel when they see one.

Still, 41% of people in the U.S. use an ad blocker online, and subscriptions to ad-free SVOD services including Netflix and Disney Plus are soaring.

But NBCU’s efforts are more about grabbing people’s attention than proving that advertising works, Feldman said.

“There is no research that shows advertising does not work,” he said. “Getting people to pay attention to that advertising is the hardest part. Once you get them to pay attention, it's super effective. That's where commercial innovation comes in.”

The new ad units will be available across NBCU’s linear, social and digital content, but not on Peacock, which has a standalone effort to “build the ad experience for the future” on streaming, Feldman said.


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