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THIS FALL, THE PEACOCK STARTS TALKING BACK NBC WILL TRY A TRIO OF INTERACTIVE PROMOS

By Published on .

NBC, which three decades ago became the first network to embrace color TV, this fall takes viewers to the new electronic media frontier.

The peacock network, in three separate promotions tied to three major advertisers, will use interactive elements to help launch its new shows during the fall premiere season.

The effort includes what NBC and McDonald's Corp. executives are calling the first multimedia TV "commercial" to "air" on an online service, a McDonald's spot adapted to run in QuickTime video on America Online's NBC Online hub.

The spot is one of the first ads to appear on America Online, which is working with content providers like NBC and Time to introduce ads on the service.

In another promotion tied to Sprint TeleMedia's FonMagic interactive telephone service, NBC and Sprint will conduct a massive consumer sweepstakes that will offer 25,000 pre-paid calling cards among its prizes.

Pre-paid cards have become hot collectibles outside the U.S., reaching an estimated $4.3 billion in sales.

The Sprint cards will feature the stars of eight new NBC series, including "The Cosby Mysteries," "The Martin Short Show" and Gene Wilder's "Young at Heart."

"Interactive media is something that all of America is talking about, so we decided to do some fun, interactive things to generate awareness for our new shows," said Alan Cohen, senior VP-marketing at NBC.

The promotion breaks Aug. 10 and runs through the end of September. NBC will promote the sweepstakes on-air and via magazine, radio and newspaper tune-in ads, handled in-house.

"The promotion demonstrates how FonMagic can expand the reach of information to the consumer, while at the same time using the service to distribute a premium," said Adrian Toader, VP-general manager of Sprint TeleMedia.

NBC executives declined to discuss the third interactive component of their fall promotion strategy, which involves retailer Toys "R" Us.

McDonald's, meanwhile, will pave the way for other NBC advertisers to do online commercials. Mr. Cohen said at least three other major marketers will run similar multimedia ads on NBC's online hub beginning after McDonald's promotion ends in early October.

The promotion, dubbed "NBC and McDonald's Go Interactive," will be backed by heavy on-air promotions, paid media and point-of-purchase materials.

Mr. Cohen said the multimedia commercial is just one facet of the effort; it will also include a variety of online programming services tied to McDonald's, including an online "board game" offering trivia contests about McDonald's and NBC's new shows.

"What we are really trying to do here is provide our viewers with an introduction to the information superhighway," said Mr. Cohen.

Other online elements of the promotion include McDonald's back-to-school safety tips and an electronic mail service to enable computer users to communicate directly with the Golden Arches.

"This is the area we really think is going to be precedent-setting for future advertisers to get involved online," said Mr. Cohen. "All the other areas are promotion. But we all know that online advertising is somewhat of a static thing that can be somewhat offensive to the subscribers."

The hub also will include click-and-win sweepstakes that will offer a variety of premiums tied to NBC and McDonald's, including $10,000 in computer equipment, a special "Saturday Night Live" CD-ROM, NBC screen savers and McDonald's gift certificates.

The interactive media unit of Leo Burnett USA, McDonald's agency, is working with NBC and Red Dot Interactive, San Francisco, to create the multimedia platform.

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