NBCU will sell ads in shows like ‘This is Us’ using software


this is us mandy moore nbcYou can buy ads on “This is Us” without calling NBC’s sales team.NBC
  • NBCUniversal will start selling ads in the majority of its top shows using ‘programmatic’ software.
  • The media company sees this adoption as a way to directly take on Facebook and other social nets.
  • Target has signed on as the first advertiser planning to use its data to buy automated, targeted ads on NBCU nets

NBC Universal is taking a major step forward in making TV advertising work more like digital.

The media giant will soon start selling ads that will appear in nearly all of its top national shows – from “This is Us” to “Sunday Night Football” to “Mr. Robot” – using the same kind of automated software that advertisers use to buy ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. And NBCU is confident that in doing so, it will prove that its ads are more effective than ads on the biggest platforms in social media.

NBCU has signed on Target as its first partner in this endeavor. The retailer will buy ads on multiple NBCU networks, from SyFy to E! to the NBC broadcast network, using its own proprietary customer data.

But Target won’t have to call any NBCU sales executives. Just like many advertisers do via social media platforms, Target and its media buying agency Essence will be able to plug directly into NBCU’s ad inventory supply via an API (or application programming interface).

For example, Target would theoretically be able to tap into its consumer data to find digital profiles of its active back-to-school shoppers from its e-commerce site and email newsletters and deliver ads during NBCU shows that reach a large number of those potential shoppers.

To facilitate this kind of automated dealmaking, NBCU has tapped 4C, an advertising technology company that helps advertisers buy ads on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

TV ads work better

On that note, NBCU isn’t just trying to emulate its digital rivals’ selling options. By making its ad inventory available in the same way Facebook’s is, it’s hoping to make it clear to brands that TV ads work better – and advertisers are better off keeping their budgets on TV.

“Each client and agency will transact directly,” said Mike Rosen, NBCU’s executive vice president, portfolio sales, and strategy. Rosen predicted that in the near future, TV show ratings will matter less than how individual shows perform for individual advertisers. 

Nearly all of NBCU’s ad inventory will be available, with the exception of ads in future marquee events like the Super Bowl, Olympics, and World Cup, Rosen said.

NBCU has been an early leader in pushing TV to adapt some of the web’s ad tactics, such as a more automated buying process and more targeting precision using data. Last year the company announced that some linear TV ads would be available through some exclusive programmatic deals. 

Still, with those partnerships, NBCU’s sales team still had to manually implement each transaction. This time around, it will happen automatically.

Michael Bologna, president of the advanced TV ad firm one2one Media said that NBCU’s move could have a big impact on the TV industry’s adoption of programmatic ad selling, assuming enough advertisers and agencies are ready to operate this way, and whether others follow suit.

Industry standard?

“It’s a step forward no doubt,” he said. “The question is whether other networks adopt the same ad tech and processes, or if everybody does this their own way. That could become convoluted.” In other words, NBCU risks becoming its own walled garden if other big TV companies go their own way. 

NBCU and many of the other top broadcast TV players have been unified in their desire to take shots at Google and Facebook of late, particularly given each of the tech platforms’ recent public struggles (Facebook with self-inflicted metrics errors and Google battle with ads ending up next to hate videos on YouTube).

To be sure, TV is still far from the web’s promise of delivering individual ads for each and every consumer. You may visit Yahoo.com and see and ad for sneakers you’ve recently been shopping for while your friend logging at the same time may see an ad based on his recent vacation searches.

But in the case of NBCU’s new initiative, the whole country will still see the same ads. The hope is that the right ads will be delivered during shows that reach a much more interested set of viewers.

We are so confident that when it is evaluated, this will allow advertisers to see the true value proposition [of TV ads on NBCU properties],” said Rosen. “We’re actually incredibly confident that ours will be more effective.”



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