The NBC Agency, the Peacock Network’s in-house ad agency, has struck an exclusive deal with Premier Retail Networks, the nation’s largest provider of in-store Nielsen-measured TV networks for major national retail chains. The deal will put high-definition promos for two of NBC”s fall season series into 2,000 Best Buy, Circuit City and Sears stores around the country.
The campaign, which begins in August and runs for six months, isn’t simply promotional, it’s educational too and has an official stamp of approval from the Consumer Electronics Association. It aims to do well by doing good, teaching consumers about the benefits of making the switch to high-definition television sets while not-so-incidentally touting “American Dreams” and “Boomtown,” two sophomore series that NBC is trying to build into “Must See TV.”
“Must See TV” is, in fact, a phrase cooked up in the NBC Agency laboratories. Now the Must See seers are intent on making high-definition television a must-see proposition for prospective TV set buyers as well. Here’s how the agency’s high-definition television information campaign will work: The campaign to educate consumers and tout the two shows will air on the PRN Home Electronics Network, which achieves more than 12 million gross impressions each month, as measured by Nielsen Media Research, according to PRN.
When customers interested in buying a TV set at any of the three national retail chains want to see a high-definition demonstration, they may get to see either taped presentations starring Tom Verica, who plays Jack Pryor, the working-class Philly father on “American Dreams,” or Neal McDonough, who plays D.A. David McNorris on “Boomtown,” in one of seven 90-second spots that were shot specifically for the in-store promo campaign.
“What you’ll see on the high-definition sets are pieces hosted by Tom and Neal that talk about how HD provides a bigger and sharper picture and better audio than traditional 3-by-4-ratio NTSC TV,” said John Miller, co-president of the NBC Agency. “They use their own shows as examples, and at some point [in the promos] they go, `Here’s how it looks in [a] 3-by-4 [ratio] and here’s how it looks in 16-by-9 [HD ratio].’
“They are sort of showing off the quality of HD, but at the same time they are showing off the quality of how their shows look in HD,” Mr. Miller said. “Anybody who happens to see it and is interested in an HD set, it’s a compelling argument; if they aren’t interested in an HD set, we get a pretty good promo.”
Those spots will be part of the programming rotation on the Home Electronics Network, which currently airs high-definition content-but not fall-season promos-from Discovery, HBO, ESPN, The WB, TV Guide and others. The NBC promo spots are expected to air twice every hour on the PRN network.
NBC chose two returning shows for the HD promotion, rather than choosing to tout its new fall crop of freshman Must See contenders, because of the need for extensive HD post-production work. The spot had to be shot in May, before the new fall shows were unveiled, to make PRN’s July 1 delivery deadline, said Barbara Blangiardi, VP of marketing and special projects, NBC Agency.
NBC will “use PRN to promote the new shows later too,” Mr. Miller said, and next summer expects to use PRN to promote the Olympics in high definition. “In today’s age you have to look at every opportunity” to promote programming, Mr. Miller added.
Fall Season Promotions
Of course, given that GE, NBC’s parent company, is a minority investor in PRN and that one of its senior executives, Ed Wilson, president of NBC Enterprises, sits on the PRN board, doing partnership deals with the giant retail-network provider makes sense on more than one level. Similarly, it makes sense for Viacom’s CBS to use Blockbuster, the mammoth retail home-video chain that is its corporate sibling, for fall season promotions too. In fact, this is the third year that the Eye Network is using Blockbuster to give away millions of DVDs with clips and promos of its new fall season slate. The expectation is that three million free interactive DVDs promoting the new CBS season will fly out of the Blockbuster stores this year, a CBS spokesman said.
Competing networks, queried about their own efforts in the retail space, generally dismissed the NBC effort while citing their own past efforts to promote their networks’ schedules on the PRN in-store networks. “If we just go out and put a bunch of ads in HD inside of retail space, it’s great to get name awareness out there, but I don’t know it’s actually going to do anything that will drive audience to that show,” said Mike Benson, senior VP, marketing, advertising and promotion for ABC, expressing for the record an opinion his colleagues at competing networks would say only off the record, “because at the end of the day, to me it’s really about motivating the right people to watch a television show.”
Mr. Benson cited an upcoming campaign to reach the gay audience with promotions for “It’s All Relative,” the new fall-season sitcom from producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (“Chicago”) involves a young married couple’s gay in-laws.
The “Relative” campaign will include ads in gay print publications, promotions in gay bars and “guerrilla marketing at [gay] parades and social functions,” Mr. Benson added.
“[The `Relative’ promo campaign] will be very targeted and done in a way … [that] will reach the audience that has the highest chance of coming to this show.”
NBC and PRN make the point that the campaign is more about educating the public to the benefits of high-definition than it is about promoting NBC programming, and that the promotional benefits are in effect added value.
“NBC has stepped in to fill a crucial link in the [educational and informational] chain by being the first broadcast network to help explain HDTV in electronics stores, where consumers need the information most,” said Charlie Nooney, PRN’s CEO.
PRN wanted “programming that would show off the benefits of high definition,” Mr. Miller said.
PRN, founded 10 years ago, creates customized programming for retailers and advertisers. Its programming is currently shown in more than 5,400 stores located in every state and television market in the country. PRN programming can be found in Wal-Mart, Circuit City, Best Buy, Sears, SAMs Club, FootAction USA and Ralph’s. Its networks deliver 170 million gross impressions each month, according to PRN.