NBCUniversal Upfront campaign airing TV ads aimed at potential advertisers

NBCUniversal is running a new Upfront brand campaign with four different advertisements featuring its TV and movie stars. Image: NBCUniversal

NBCUniversal is test-driving a new method of selling ad spots for this 2017 upfront season—by running TV ads on the company’s own channels.

In an unprecedented move for the Comcast-owned media conglomerate, NBCUniversal announced that it is launching a new Upfront brand campaign, using original TV ads as a new path to reach potential advertisers. This is the first time the company has taken this route, and will also use traditional marketing outlets to secure advance ad commitments during the 2017 Upfront season, which began last month and goes through May 18, according to Cynopsis Media.

The four linear advertisements—you can watch three of them here—last for 15 to 60 seconds, and feature TV and movie stars including Lester Holt, Ryan Phillippe, Debra Messing, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Kim Kardashian. The ads will appear on the networks of Bravo, CNBC, E!, Golf Channel, MSNBC, NBC, NBC News, NBCSN, Oxygen, Syfy, Telemundo and USA Network.

“For this year’s Upfront messaging, we’re going beyond the traditional trade media buy and taking advantage of our own assets because we know there’s no better way to scale a marketing campaign across platforms and target the audiences we need to reach than with what’s right within our own portfolio,” said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships for NBCUniversal, in a statement.

An NBCUniversal source, who asked not to be named, said that the campaign has generated largely positive responses, though it’s too early to tell whether the company will do this again.

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Additional campaign creative and content will air on NBCUniversal digital sites and the platforms of partners including Apple News, BuzzFeed, Snap Inc. and Vox Media. The effort’s linear and digital advertisements will take advantage of NBCUniversal’s Audience Studio advanced advertising capabilities, including its Audience Targeting Platform to reach relevant audiences.

This campaign is supported by NBCUniversal’s Symphony effort, a companywide initiative billed as the company’s “secret sauce” by executives, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Symphony initiative, currently in at least its fourth year, unifies NBCUniversal’s distributed resources so that multiple divisions are all participating on the same promotions. This tactic “often fails,” according to the LA Times, but NBCUniversal might have gotten it right this time. Anita Elberse, a professor at Harvard Business School who specializes in the entertainment industry and has done a case study on Symphony, told the newspaper last week that this initiative is coming from the very top.

 “Steve Burke is making it very clear that this is an enormous priority for him and for the company,” Elberse told the LA Times.

RELATED: AMC Networks has launched a new targeted advertising product

Last year, NBCUniversal locked down more than $6 billion in advance ad commitments across its entire portfolio, Variety reported. The company brings in about $10 billion in ad revenue per year, total.

Major media companies and broadcasters are increasingly looking for new paths to take in advertising as the market is crowded with new content. Big-data options are also a way to target audiences that many companies are looking at in advertising. Yesterday, AMC Networks launched a new targeted advertising product that will give buyers a better data-driven view of their ad spending. The ad product compiles Nielsen data and information from clients to better target ads across AMC’s networks and across TV as a whole. NBCUniversal is also using audience data to sell TV ads, Deadline reported this week—though the company is using its own figures to target potential buyers.