Simplicity Pays Off for ‘Nightly News’

Dec 11, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Viewers took to the extra six minutes of information from “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams” on Dec. 4, when an estimated 800,000 more viewers than the broadcast’s November average tuned in, according to time-period data from Nielsen Media Research.

In addition to flocking to “Nightly News,” viewers reported having positive associations with Philips Electronics North America for making the extra news possible by being the sole-and less invasive-national sponsor of the Dec. 4 newscast.

As sponsor of the half-hour telecast, Philips presented only three commercials adding up to one minute and 15 seconds instead of the usual 14 commercials adding up to seven minutes.

NBC News President Steve Capus was “pleased with the entire effort,” and not just with the one-night sampling. “For one wonderful night we got to spread our wings,” he said.

“No question there is an intangible value, and that is a lot of sampling and increase in the audience for the broadcast,” Mr. Capus said.

“This is the kind of thing you need to do in this day and age,” he added.

Within two hours of the newscast’s end, more than 3,500 people had e-mailed their reaction to almost 28 minutes of news (including a two-minute, 50-second piece anchor Mr. Williams wrote about the historic aircraft carrier USS Intrepid).

The viewers’ response was “99 percent positive,” Mr. Capus said.

“We don’t have a lot of people writing us about our ads in our traditional approaches,” said Eric Plaskonos, Philips Electronics North America director of brand communications.

Quantitative and attitudinal data are expected late this month. This campaign about simplicity cost Philips about $2 million for a week-long buy that also included time on “Today,” two NBC Universal cable shows and the NBC Weather Plus digital channel. It also had an Amazon.com tie-in, about the simplicity of gift-giving.

Philips previously bought solo sponsorship of a college football game on TNT and CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

Mr. Plaskonos said he expects the biggest impact of the NBC Universal buy to be on Philips’ brand, rather than for the campaign to immediately translate into sales.

“When you’re able to deliver a service they’ve been asking for [less commercial clutter] and deliver it through a cooperative media partner, consumers acknowledge it and they reward you,” he said.

Philips is looking for other “simplicity” venues that would attract its main demographic: college-grad adults 35 to 54 with household incomes of $65,000-plus. The Internet is one possibility.

Philips recently dedicated spaces to simplicity and relaxation in the Toronto airport, where teams of people did “random acts of simplicity” such as carrying bags and holding doors.

Free Publicity

No matter how quantifiably successful the NBC experience proves to be, Philips isn’t likely to do another TV project anytime soon. For one thing, it wouldn’t generate the interest from the media that the “Nightly” sponsorship did and Mr. Plaskonos is not shy about saying the free publicity was one big intangible.

For another, it can be expensive and “unfortunately the mechanism doesn’t exist for us to basically spend the GEP of a small country on our media plan,” he said.

Then there’s the dearth of interest from the TV sales side. No one approached Philips after either the TNT game or the “60 Minutes” broadcast a year ago with its own idea for a similar project.

“There are a lot of people who slam doors on these things,” Mr. Plaskonos said. “The industry is not incentivized to deliver an idea. It is incentivized to sell units. Right now, if I have an idea and I’m willing to underwrite it, it just smacks right into this wall of `We can’t do it because we don’t work that way, and because this other advertiser has this already we can’t break that up.”‘