NBCUniversal new ad formats tap into metaverse, sequential storytelling

Before heading into the Upfronts, NBCUniversal unveiled its fifth-annual lineup of new commercial innovations, which among others include leveraging AR for immersive metaverse-type experiences and sequential ad storytelling that pulls consumers through the purchase funnel throughout the day.

Josh Feldman, global chief marketing officer for NBCUniversal Advertising & Partnerships told Fierce Video that in the past five years, recognizing its competitive set wasn’t as steadfast and that people’s viewing habits were changing, the company has been on a mission to make the “ad experience as close to as enjoyable as the content experience itself” and better for both end viewers and marketers.

At the end of the day, it’s not just about delivering impressions “it’s about getting people to lean forward” and pay attention to marketer’s message, with a true and memorable impact, he said. NBCU has since rolled out over 60 commercial innovations, leveraging all the tools available across content, format, technology and IP.

Now, not all commercial innovations are winners, and Feldman acknowledged the company continues to test and get learnings while sunsetting formats that don’t hit the mark. That said, by and large the vast majority are really effective, according to Feldman.  To that point, he said custom research shows consumers who engage with Commercial Innovations from NBCU are 88% more likley to remember a brand involved, and 79% less likely to change the channel – meaning the key aim of keeping eyeballs is working. Shoppable-enabled activations are consistently twice as effective as traditional ads, according to NBCU.

So what are some the latest and greatest in commercial formats that NBCU is bringing to audiences and marketers, ahead of Upfront negotiations that start in just a few weeks?

One is the AR Portal, which uses NBCU’s augmented reality (AR) technology as an entry to the metaverse. It’s a mobile-led initiative that takes consumers from popular content they love into a more immersive environment via a QR code where brands can connect further.

For example, with Bravo’s popular show “Top Chef” where viewers can go use their mobile phone and QR code to go into the Top Chef kitchen virtual environment, with marketer brands immersed and viewers get to feel like their cooking (in avatar form) alongside chefs.  

NBCU already has had some success with metaverse ties when it launched an experience alongside “BravoCon” in 2019 with a metaverse-type Bravo Bazar experience. It allowed super fans to shop different shows and buy products from them in different areas within the immersive environment.  Collette Winn, VP of Strategy & Operations for Creative Partnerships at NBCU, helped lead that effort, which is one of a several ways NBCU is exploring for how it can show up with virtual and metaverse-like experiences.

Still, Feldman emphasized that while the metaverse is a hot topic in the video and advertising industry, NBCU is “not doing it just to be flashy” but where it benefits and bring value for consumers.

“While other places are using the word metaverse to try and impress, we’re using the metaverse where it adds value and where it makes sense for our IP,” he said.  

The BravoCon Bazar brought together IP, star power and interactivity, where fans crave it, Winn said.

“We saw tremendous growth on the Bravo meatverse shopping experience versus a typical AR shopping experience,” she told Fierce. Plus 77% more time spent in an environment where there’s both content IP and talent, providing “more of a reason why people want to stay and bring friends into the space.”

Sequential storytelling

Another interesting ad innovation is sequential storytelling, which was previously unveiled at One22, NBCU’s second annual developer conference.

 The idea is that three different creative ad elements are surfaced to a specific type of consumer, following them as they consume content throughout the day to ultimately pull them through from awareness to purchasing.

“Sequential storytelling is really a very targeted play, leaning into pulling someone into the purchase funnel with the creative itself,” Winn said. It leverages first party data segements, starts with awareness, and by the third creative element, layers in a shoppable ad capability to drive action right from the ad unit itself, she explained.

So for example, if an advertiser is looking to target travelers. A viewer could be watching the “Today Show” on a tablet where they see the first relevant ad.

“Once that has been viewed, we’ve captured them and then we do a retargeting sequential messaging within each of the [ad] units to follow,” Winn noted. So after watching headlines in the morning, a second creative unit is surfaced later when that same viewer is watching Bravo on Peacock for example, to drive consideration of the product, and then third targeting that viewer wherever they’re watching sports, or other content in the evening, giving a final push to make a purchase.

“We know where she is to be able to target her with that third message, which is really lean in and book that vacation for herself,” Winn continued.

Effectiveness of this approach is very strong, according to Winn. It’s the first commercial innovation to market spanning the purchase funnel and Winn said NBU has operationalized the retargeting function.

“So we’re very excited to go into beta tests with this with a partner, and really look at this from a full funnel approach,” she noted.

Recently NBCU’s Peacock showcased two new ad formats at its NewFronts presentation including Frame Ads and In-Scene ads.

Here are some of NBCU’s other new commercial innovations, all of which are available to marketers and some will be beta tested with partners: 

Interactive countdown clock commercial innovation _ NBCU
An interactive countdown clock is one of the new commerical innovations, to align marketers with excitement of a new premiere or launch (NBCUniversal)
  • Attention lab - which uses attention metrics like eye tracking to show physical dips and spikes in consumers attention to ads (before they go to market), where advertisers can adjust the message to hit the right note, and after its deployed think about optimizing it for brand lift.
  • Retro Ads – custom creative designed to reflect a specific era that contextually aligns with the time period of a show.
  • Picture-in-Picture expanded story telling – interactive content experiences that take place in a branded digital or social environments, with a second-screen experience via QR codes.
  • The Shop Drop - creates commerce-enabled activations for brand’s upcoming product launches.
  • Double Box Creative in Context – uses Contextual Intelligence to show a custom ad alongside relevant IP with a double box format that shows up next to programming.
  • NBCU Social Studio Uses NBCU’s One Platform’s social channels and premium content to align with trending conversations of the day.