NBCU Upfront to Focus on Reach, Flexibility

NBC’s upfront pitch this year will hinge on convincing advertisers that buying the network in conjunction with other elements in the NBCU media portfolio can help them reach nine out of 10 U.S. residents in a given month or to target consumers more specifically based on lifestyles and interests.

To highlight that message, Michael Pilot, president of sales and marketing at NBCU and Lauren Zalaznick, president of NBC Universal Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks, who also leads NBCU’s Women@NBCU, Healthy@NBCU and the Green is Universal initiative, hosted a pre-upfront marketing lunch and panel discussion today to tout their Integrated Sales Marketing program.

“NBCU’s media profile is greater in sum than it is in individual parts,” Pilot told media buyers in attendance. “We have a portfolio that is unique in composition, in size, scope and diversity.” Added Zalaznick: “The more we can sell NBC Universal, the more its individual media brands will benefit.”

In addition to this pre-upfront presentation to media buyers, NBC is returning to the traditional upfront week May 17-20 this year. For the past two years, NBC held an “infront” presentation with buyers to show them their new fall programming a full month before its other broadcast network rivals.

While NBC will pursue traditional one network advertising deals with media agencies, Pilot said the ISM program “will be marketed by us in this upfront like never before.” In essence, the initiative offers advertisers “targeted reach,” as well as brand/product tie-ins with NBCU assets, including specific networks, shows and talent.

Pilot said advertisers can choose to be in one of three environments — Women@NBCU, Green is Universal and Healthy at NBCU “or can create their own custom marketing solution using the various pieces of the entire NBCU portfolio that best targets their audience.”

Along with the ISM push, NBCU also announced a new slate of Green @ NBCU and Healthy @ NBCU projects. Among the eco-themed programs in the work is Harmony, a documentary about the global environmental crisis developed in conjunction with Charles, Prince of Wales. The special will air on NBC this November.

On the first day of summer (June 21), NBCU will launch Healthy Week across the breadth of its TV properties, including the broadcast net and cable channels like USA, Bravo, Oxygen, Syfy, MSNBC and CNBC. The themed programming will be sold as part of the 2010 upfront, and already General Mills has signed on as lead sponsor of the week.

The ISM program “requires a relationship both in and out of the traditional buying cycle,” Pilot said. “Some of these deals can be initiated during the upfront, some of them can be initiated during the course of the year and finalized during the upfront. We’ve already done six such deals this year so far.”

The panel was hosted by Donny Deutsch, former host of CNBC’s The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, and chairman of the media agency bearing his name. Panelists included Peggy Green, vice chairman of media agency Zenith; Seth Greenberg, director of national media and digital marketing for TurboTax; and Nancy Smith, vp, global media, custom & community, American Express.

Both TurboTax and American Express have written ISM deals with NBCU.

Rounding out the panel was Christopher Vollmer, partner at Booz & Company, who oversees the firm’s global media and entertainment team.

The integrated sales marketing approach began to take shape about two years ago, but has  steadily evolved and picked up steam over the past year.

In January, TurboTax began a two-month campaign spanning six NBCU nets and various online properties. The creative linked popular NBCU programs and talent to Turbo Tax in a series of integrated custom spots that highlighted the company’s tax preparation software.