NBC: Ads During Olympics Beat Those on Regular TV

Network Cites Research Showing Higher Recall, Search, Consumer Action for Commercials During the Games

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Ads shown during the Olympics have more influence than those that air in more traditional TV programming, NBC Universal is suggesting, marking its first attempt during the broadcast of the current games to mine viewer and reaction data for more overarching findings.

Ads from auto advertisers, financial-services firms, movie studios and retailers during the Olympics are having more impact on viewer behavior than commercials airing in more typical TV programming, NBC said, citing data from Nielsen IAG, which measures likability and recall of ads, programs and product placements.

The data represents the first of what the media company hopes will become many more granular peeks at consumer behavior -- at a time when marketers are less impressed by typical TV measurements showing how many viewers saw a show or the ads supporting it. NBC also wants to maximize the games' benefits to its ad sales operations, even after the closing ceremony, because it expects to lose money on the Olympics this year for the first time in memory.

NBC's early Olympics coverage has generated solid ratings. Citing data from Nielsen, NBC Universal said today that 117 million people have watched the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games on its various networks during the opening weekend, 5 million more than those who watched the first weekend of the Turin Games in 2006. NBC Universal said its Sunday broadcasts were seen by 83 million total viewers, 5 million more than the first Sunday from Turin.

More than ratings
But these days, ratings only get you so far. "A rating is great, and obviously the basis of everything else," said Alan Wurtzel, president-research and media development, NBC Universal. Yet advertisers are increasingly mindful of other measures, and have begun using other technologies to mine information about viewer behavior. Knowing "what kind of viewers" are watching "and how those viewers are reacting to marketers' objectives," Mr. Wurtzel said, is playing more of a role in determining the value of advertising in these times. Advertisers have every right to see whether their investment paid off, he added.

Movie trailers airing in this past weekend's opening ceremonies, for example, were 14% more effective in driving consumers' "intent to view" over movie trailers that ran in more typical broadcast and cable-TV programming, according to NBC, citing Nielsen IAG data. Ads from a collection of retailers running in the opening ceremonies proved to be 39% more effective at generating brand recall, 56% more effective at driving message recall and 46% more effective at driving likability.

Ads from a collection of financial-services advertisers were 12% more effective in promoting brand recall, 19% more effective in driving message recall and 15% more effective at improving likability, said NBC, citing Nielsen IAG.

Auto going for gold
Ads from autos seemed to get one of the larger boosts. A collection of auto ads that ran during the Vancouver opening ceremonies saw brand recall increase 41% over auto ads that ran in more typical TV programming. The auto ads saw message recall increase 67% in the Olympics opening ceremonies, while likability was raised 49%, Mr. Wurtzel said.

In another example of trying to mine new kinds of data, NBC has been working with Google to monitor searches around specific terms near the air times for particular pieces of content, including, for example, an ad for Sun Life Financial or the world premiere of the revamped "We Are the World." Mr. Wurtzel said Google Analytics revealed a heavy spike in search activity at or about the time of air for each content segment -- more heavily than if the content aired in other kinds of programming.

A spike in search activity shouldn't come as a surprise. Driving viewers to the web for more information has become a cornerstone of many ad campaigns, including a great number of the commercials that ran in the recent Super Bowl. Mr. Wurtzel said NBC Universal could use the Google results as proof that content, in this case the Olympics, can also "stimulate behavior."

Marketers and content producers are all seeking to create something that "you pay attention to," but also a property "that causes you to do something that was relevant to what I was saying," said Peter Tortorici, CEO of WPP's Group M Entertainment and an executive producer of the "We Are the World" remake. The Google statistics aim to lend ballast to those goals, he suggested.

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