Marketing & Advertising

NBCUniversal Talks Tailored Television Ads

Overview After years of talking about the future of TV, is personalized advertising going to finally make its way to linear TV programming? NBCUniversal says it’s on the verge of rolling out addressable ads.

The technology — planning and buying tools, data sets, and the all-important measurement technology — needed to deliver personalized digital advertising, also known as addressable advertising, to linear TV viewers is at a maturation point where tailored promotions will soon be a reality.

Nielsen brought together Axios reporter Sara Fischer and NBCUniversal Senior Vice President of Advanced Advertising Products and Strategy Denise Colella during CES® 2021 to talk about how NBCUniversal is unlocking addressable advertising.


How do you balance feeding the traditional business while preparing for the new one?

We are doubling down on our advanced advertising, and NBCUniversal has been doing that for more than five years now.

We feel that, as streaming becomes more common and as folks use more technology, they are expecting vendors and broadcasters to know who they are. They are expecting the broadcasters to connect their viewing experience with their interests and speak to them in a personal way.

Addressable is our way of achieving that on video on demand (VOD), connected TV (CTV) and now linear.


Can you give me a few examples of how addressable is going to work at NBCUniversal?

I'll give you an example of how it works today and what we're working toward.

What we've done today is VOD addressable. We were able to use set-top box data from Comcast to provide tailored messaging by segmented interest to those watching our VOD programming. For someone watching a program in real time, we're able to understand who they are, what are their interests and serve a tailored advertisement to their interests.

As we move into linear addressable, we're doing the same thing with data from the MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors, which are the cable or satellite providers), but now we're doing it at the scale of linear television. We've seen many different opportunities and ways of doing this.

There's the OAR initiative and the On Addressability initiative, and Nielsen has a technology. We're working with all of those different vendors because there isn’t a single standard, as of yet.

We take the MVPD data and same thing: we parse it, and then we're able to split the avails on linear television. We can either allow one advertiser to provide different advertisements to different segments, or in the future, we're hoping to be able to split avails among multiple advertisers, allowing somebody who is interested in cars to get an automotive ad and a new family to receive a diapers ad. 

It's really incumbent on us to make sure that our clients can reach their audiences on all platforms, and I think addressable is going to help us with that immensely.

Denise Colella
SVP of Advanced Advertising Products and Strategy, NBCUniversal

What are the challenges that networks face in making sure that their inventory is getting measured?

There are actually a host of issues that we experienced, both with measurement and also technology. Addressable really requires the marriage of efforts between our insights and measurements group, operations group, data group, planning group, and even technical services group. I think that is why it's taken so long to happen.

When it comes to measurement, the challenge that we have industrywide is that, until now, there hasn't been a way to make addressable currency grade.

In order for us to be able to sell at volume in the addressable space, we need to provide our buyers with information about how the addressable was delivered and assimilate that into the ratings that clients are used to.

The inclusion of addressable ratings is so important for us to make this a reality, and we're really looking forward to that later this year.


How has addressable transformed the business at NBCUniversal?

We're undergoing a seismic shift in advertising, and we're starting to see advertising be more personalized across the board, whether it's in linear, digital, streaming or CTV.

It's really incumbent on us to make sure that our clients can reach their audiences on all platforms, and I think addressable is going to help us with that immensely. Identity, which is used for addressable, is the linchpin between all of those platforms.

As we move forward with our one platform that allows our buyers to look at inventory — whether it's on, linear, digital or now on Peacock — it's going to be important to take that identity and look at a viewer's profile and their behavior across platforms.

We have a host of touch points, and we're going to bring them all together and allow campaigns to work better for advertisers.

All in all, we think this is this is a great opportunity for us, for our partners and agencies, and ultimately the advertisers.


Learn more about addressable advertising from additional panelists Nielsen’s Scott Brown and WPP GroupM’s Matt Sweeney in the full CES 2021 session “Show Me the Money: Unlock Addressable Advertising.”

Interested in exhibiting at CES 2022 alongside NBCUniversal? Contact the CES sales team to learn more about opportunities, including private meeting space.

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