Tag Archives: NBC

Can Unilever and NBCU Deliver the Best Integrated Campaign Ever?

Unilever and NBC Universal timed their announcement of what may turn out to be the biggest integrated marketing program we’ve seen tied to television to launch Unilever’s new hair-care product, Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy.  Unilever has hit some transmedia home runs before as seen with their Dove “campaign for Real Beauty” and this partnership with NBCUniversal’s Integrated Media and Creative Partnerships and Innovation (CP&I) Groups could be the one that set’s a new standard.  The program began yesterday with the airing of a teaser for a series of videos that start on-air and then continue online – where users get to influence the story. In theory, everything is lining up to showcase what a media company with many outlets can do when partnered with a huge company like Unilever. While the campaign revolves around the Best Night Ever, over the next few weeks, we’ll see if they were able to deliver on the promises of one of the Best Campaigns Ever.

There is so much going for this campaign – the involvement of NBCU’s talent across their multiple networks, the fun interactive ability to control the characters’ experiences beyond the velvet rope and a launch coinciding with television’s May Sweeps – it is surprising that there seems to already be some quirky issues arising.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m not being a hater and wanting to point out issues because I want this to fail. I actually want this to succeed because I know how hard it is to pull off and it could point to even bigger opportunities for the future.

Utilizing NBCU talent, including Jane Krakowski, Andy Cohen, Giuliana Rancic, and Tim Meadows, the narrative will focus on how healthy hair is essential to having a great night out. The interesting thing is that it seems the 15 second teaser for the campaign is all that will actually run during the Sweeps period. We’ll see how they use the talent to drive the narrative – it’s not clear whether they’ll be actively part of it or just presenters.  It seems like we will be following one girl and one guy through their “night out” experiences.  All of the pieces will run across NBC, Style, Oxygen, E!, Bravo, NBC.com, MyStyle.com, Oxygen.com, Eonline.com, Bravotv.com, and DailyCandy.  The acquisition of these properties were made with this type of cross-platform promotion in mind. How smooth and integrated the program and its narrative are across all of those teams will be the test.  It will be interesting to see whether they go safe with simple executions or really rev it up with bespoke “accents” depending on the platform or publisher.

Their choice for the campaign to be themed Best Night Ever is a tricky one.  It makes sense for the narrative of their clips, but there’s a LOT of established content out there with that moniker.  Doing a quick search, I found a lot of stuff about the television show, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. And, unless they are looking for people to share their own Best Night Ever, the use of that hash-tag on Twitter might lead in completely different directions.  Speaking of Twitter, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a Twitter account disclaimer that stated the management of a brand-specific account is being done by the outside agency – in this case, Webber Shandwick.

NBCU and Unilever are using a technology from Interlude to enable users to interact and determine how the action should branch in order to make it the best night ever.  This could be in the form of choosing which character to follow, which music to listen to, and other choices that will supposedly affect the content of subsequent on-air and online videos. I would love to know how many people actually interact with the story, its characters and more. The learnings alone from such an integrated program could be huge.  What relative percentage converted from on-air to online? How deep into the experience did people interact?  How many times did they come back? Though I doubt we’ll see those hard numbers, they would be fascinating.

One concern that I have is that the 15 second teaser cannot be seen online on youtube.com, and you need to Like the Clear Hair Facebook page to see what’s there. I can understand wanting people to like you in order to get free samples, but putting a gate up there before people can find out more doesn’t make sense.  Additionally, none of the sites that will be hosting parts of the program have anything about this on their home pages.  Again, I can understand that it’s still early.  This could just be an example of how tough it is to launch a campaign like this. They probably would have been well served to even have just a minimal mention of the program on their sites. And, I would have definitely posted the video on YouTube. As for Facebook, I get wanting to be able to have your videos go out to the world in many people’s timelines, but how many people will allow that just to sample your new product.  If it was an established brand, I can see more people wanting to share the joy.  I’m worried that the gate is too high for people to find out more about the product on Facebook.

Ultimately, This type of campaign is what we used to dream of when I was at ABC.com. There were too many obstacles that have since been removed, but it is still incredibly complex. While we may never see the stats, we’ll get a good sense of whether it was a success if we see more of these types of integrated programs in the future. For the benefit of all the media we do, fingers are crossed that it is a resounding one and leads to many more opportunities in the future. Hopefully, the Best Night Ever will lead to the opportunities for even more Best Integrated Campaigns Ever…

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Culturally Crossed Fingers Surrounding Olympics Streaming

Last Wednesday marked the 100th day mark until the opening of the 2012 Olympics in London. The news was filled with announcements about the coverage on NBC in the US as well as other coverage announcements by other sports news outlets. Suffice it to say, there will be more opportunities to keep track of what’s going on that ever before. With NBC’s promise to stream 3500 hours of coverage live over the internet, access (and data usage) will be wide open. Hopefully, the excitement and engagement will equal the level of access.  It’s success in both content presentation and quality could provide key insights into the streaming possibilities for future events that are not as big as the Olympics. With that being said, I am still crossing my fingers for something connected to the Olympics but often overlooked – the Olympic Cultural Festival. I have tickets for the Olympics but I will not be able to attend any of the cultural events surrounding it – and that is what my fingers are crossed for, in terms of streaming.

Alongside every Olympics, the hosting nations present a large and varied cultural arts festival. These festivals not only present the opportunity to experience the arts in new ways – they provide a platform for artists to reach an audience in ways like never before. Perhaps even more than the actual Olympics, they give a clearer view into what the hosting country is all about.  As such, I want to see more. I’ve checked out the many of the 364 events that are promoted on the London 2012 Festival site with shows ranging from Art to books, to music, to food, to fashion dance and theatre with a bunch of other things sprinkled in.

Beyond the presenters and participants, larger organizations and companies are getting involved. Eurostar – one of the larger European train companies – is sponsoring a stage in Granary Square. Panasonic is sponsoring a program to bring young people into the art of filmmaking through “Film Nation: Shorts”. BP is causing a bit of a row with their participation due to concerns of gas/petrol and environmental issues, but I applaud them for their sponsorship of programs with the Royal Shakespeare Company, The National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Museum – mostly to engage younger audiences. And, BT is sponsoring a number of arts events with a series of music events at its core.

So, here’s where the rub is. If BT is the communications partner for both the Gamesandthe Festival. And, if they profess that they are “responsible for providing the communications services and infrastructure to make London 2012 the most connected Games ever, but it’s not just about the sporting action – we’re enabling people to have a fantastic London 2012 experience through music and art too.” Then, shouldn’t we be seeing some major announcements about their streaming of many cultural events on the internet and through mobile?

Perhaps its unfair to call out BT on this, but they seem to be most primed to make this happen and I guess this is now a plea for them (or anyone) to do so.  After seeing the artists at Coachella agree to have their performances streamed live, it seems a no-brainer for artists and organizations to do the same from the London 2012 Festival. Why not share something that is seemingly so fantastic?

Again, the Olympic Games themselves have some minor differences based on where they are hosted, but the Cultural Festivals that run alongside act as a true emblem of what the host country has to offer.  I’m fortunate because I am able to be in London often and get to experience this first-hand, but I know I’m part of the relative few who are able to. And I’m saddened that I can’t be there to experience one of the great by-products of the games.

Yes, I will enjoy the Olympics whether I am there or in Los Angeles watching, but the Festival makes it so much fuller. Wouldn’t this also set the ball rolling for future Festivals when technology is even stronger?  If the Gymnastics competition will be providing users the opportunity to view from a number of angles based on their choice, why can’t we take in some of the cultural events before and after?

I would say that somebody now has 93 days (til the Opening Ceremonies) to figure this out, but the official start date is actually June 21st (with many events already beginning.) Until the streaming cultural event announcements start coming, I don’t think I can risk holding my breath. But I can certainly cross my fingers.

The Super Platform

NBC announced recently that they had sold all of their Super Bowl ad inventory at around $3.5 Million per thirty-second spot.  Many people were asking whether the SB spot costs were worth it when they topped $3MM last year and even $1.5MM only a few years ago.  When it comes tot he Super Bowl, it seems that the economic downturn is nowhere to be found. The reality is that there is no other platform for launching a campaign that is better than a Super Bowl ad.

Certainly, the number of viewers is consistently the highest each year – with the numbers being the highest ever when the New Orleans Saints won it all a couple of years ago (finally dethroning the M*A*S*H finale.) Without a doubt, it is the only event that raucous parties come to an immediate hush as the commercials begin so that people don’t miss anything.  What used to be the opportunity for a potty break or a chance to grab a bite has now been moved to either quiet points of the game or during the musical performance at halftime.

The reverence for the commercials is not something new.  Around twenty years ago, when I was waiting tables at Dan Marino’s Sports Bar in Coconut Grove, the entire place got quiet for commercials…

Even the length of the spot and its higher price is not a barrier to entry as more marketers are buying longer time to showcase 60 second spots or even longer – like Chrysler did last year for its two-minute spot featuring Eminem. Ad Age calls out the fact that we’re all trying to reach the heights that Apple did in it’s “1984” themed longform ad announcing the Mac nearly 30 years ago.

The reality is, there is so much of a tail on any ad that is placed within the Super Bowl that it doesn’t even wholly rely on who’s watching it live.  With outlets like USA Today grading the spots as efficiently as they would grade the players and water cooler chatter not only happening in offices, but on blogs and boards across the web – the spots live on for a long time whether follow-up media buys are booked or not.

When pondering the value of those spots, it really comes down to quality.  The biggest waste of money is when someone puts a commercial in there that is confusing or just plain stupid.  Sometimes, there is such a drive for making the spot over-the-top memorable that you can’t even recall what the spot was advertising.  While it is less than desirable to have a regular spot air during the Super Bowl, it is better to do that than place one that will reflect negatively on your brand.

Beyond that, it seems that it seems the value is relatable to the dollar amounts and, even with the high bumps in rates from year to year, its worth it. Just last year, Volkswagen stated they received well over $100MM in value from “The Force” spot they ran during the Super Bowl.  Without the platform of the Super Bowl, the spot still would have been cute and fun, but certainly not that super.

Numbers Without Context Only Bring Confusion

There have been some numbers that have come out lately that have made me laugh.  The funny part was how they were presented as something of significance in their numbers alone.  For instance, a report came out a few days ago that showcased NBC’s CPM averages being higher than the other networks.  Another post today pegged the Connected TV penetration of Apple TV at a high of 32%.  Unfortunately, they are both somewhat irrelevant when being shown as a number value above all else. There is a high value placed on the numbers alone and they do not always present the strongest argument for a product one way or the other. This type of reporting seems only to confuse the matter.

In the case of NBC,  the lift in the average was attributed to News and Late-Night programming and the article essentially held it in high regard based on its singular number value.  The CPM average of $20.85 is more than four dollars higher than its closest competitor. Besides the fact that FOX shows a considerably higher CPM at the end of the report (due to only counting its two hours of primetime each night and one hour of weekend morning programming) there are a number of issues with the report in the first place.  I am sure somewhere within NBC/Universal’s walls, there is a hollow victory.  Is it ludicrous to intimate that News and Late Night programming can make up for Primetime deficiencies.  It points to a volume issue.  The basis that NBC is leading because of those high CPMs is like saying that Carl’s Jr is a stronger fast-food chain than McDonald’s based on its 6 dollar burger compared to McD’s couple dollar Big Mac.  It may be nice to say that you item costs more, but if you don’t have the volume of sales, it’s a non-story.

I count the story about Apple TV and connected TVs to be in the same realm as the NBC CPM story. Yes, 32% is a nice number when trying to determine market share, but what does it really mean?  Some would argue, in fact, that the myriad of newest generation plasma and LCD televisions that have been sold be the highest share-holders of connected TVs. I would even go so far as to intimate that most people don’t know what a connected TV truly means and some people might even think they have a connected TV when they do not. 

A relative problem in the Home Entertainment industry is that there is/was a strong push to convert to Blu-ray with the promotional push to use BD-Live for more content.  It ends up that huge numbers of people aren’t even connected to access that content and, if they are, the BD-Live experience tends to be quite underwhelming.

In these cases, the underlying piece that ties them all together is context and engagement.  The numbers on their own are nice and all, but out of context they seem more like a waste of time.  Factoring in the elements of engagement would be even more useful. 

The post about Apple TV does bring up solid points about forms of engagement with growing incorporation of the AirPlay product. The product provides solid opportunities for the future, but it’s not here yet and we have yet to see what the uptake is on that.

With new technologies, we know that it takes time to build those engagement numbers and one of the biggest obstacles is adoption.  If we are going to work so hard to do drive adoption and engagement and then ultimately celebrate numbers that don’t really matter (like referenced in those NBC figures for a well-established medium), we’re only doing going to run ourselves in circles.

Analysts are engaged to try to bring understanding and order to our businesses to clarify solutions.  Make sure you don’t run the risk of only looking at the numbers without dissecting the context.

In Saturated Markets, How Much Is Enough?

In the ever-growing saturation of the online video player market, TumTiki has just entered the fray and its future is not entirely clear.  While they seem to be aggregating full TV episodes, movies and short-form content from other sites like Hulu and Amazon.com – with a reported 700,000 free videos at launch – their business model is a little unclear.  They are running ads from the serving sites and don’t plan on selling their own advertising for a while.  The site is backed by rural communications company, Frontier Communications, and they will have to do quite a bit of marketing and promotional programming to drive users to this new site amongst many.

Before looking at the possible upside, its important to look at the issues:

  • The video quality is quite jerky at the beginning of each episode.  They are certainly not of the quality of Hulu or the ABC App.
  • For a media planner, will it be even more confusing as to who they would go to for an ad buy?  Currently, just the ownership of Hulu and questions of which team to buy through is challenging enough.  With added resources, TumTiki’s ad sales team will seemingly have even more issues.
  • While they did just launch yesterday, it seems they need to do a bit more work on the UI to make the site more compelling than other video aggregators.  I would argue that they truly need an editorial staff to strengthen the offering and attempt to make it stick out from the pack.
  • On a nit-picky side, I watched a ONCE UPON A TIME episode and it quickly moved on to play an episode of GRIMM’S.  I would have preferred a setup like youtube that shows video options after a video plays rather than going directly into another episode or one from another series. Also, once the other series begins, the browser chrome should change to the new series (but that’ just being really picky…)

There are some good possibilities that are still too early to tell whether they will work or not. 

  • There is the seeming promise that you will be able to comment while watching the show, but it does not say whether that comment will appear at the same time in the episode.  The technology for that has been available for more than a year, so it should be included.
  • They intro video also promises a loyalty rewards program based on how much content you watch.  Depending on what the mechanics are and what the payoff could be, that piece could be integral to the site’s success.
  • In some markets, they will be offering local content mixed in with the rest of the content.  This could be good for finding items, but I’ve got to imagine that if someone is really searching for local content, they will find the originating source as this site is just an aggregator.

 All in, it begs the question of launch strategy for new sites in any of the saturated markets.  Do you launch just to get out there with promises of things to come?  Do you tinker until it truly does set itself apart?  In the case of TumTiki, it seems like they might be getting buzz too early and those early samplers will not get the full value that they might have if there were a soft launch first.  Again, only time will tell if what they’ve done is enough to clear a big enough market share to be a big player.