Walmart, which ran ads during NBC’s live broadcast of “The Sound of Music” last year that used songs from the play to make a marketing point, will again serve as lead sponsor of the live event, and will use commercials that echo the action that just took place in the play just before the production cuts to advertising. All five of the spots will also feature Tinker Bell (or, at least, the version of the character being used in the NBC production).
Walmart will have the heaviest presence in what is a sold-out program, said Dan Lovinger, executive vice president of entertainment ad sales at NBCUniversal. “I think that the industry, and certainly America, is really falling in love with concepts like this,” he said. “It’s a great family event. It gives people the opportunity during the holidays to sit down together to watch a show that everyone can be comfortable with.”
Set to air live at 8 p.m. on Thursday, December 4, NBC’s “Peter Pan” production shows the network doubling down on a gambit that worked well last year – and is gaining traction across the TV-scape. Just as Discovery Channel’s recent broadcasts of daredevil Nik Wallenda walking a tightrope over Chicago and in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon have lured viewers, so too has the prospect of seeing up-and-coming celebrities hold forth in the title role of NBC’s theatrical events. Allison Williams will play Peter Pan while Christopher Walken will play Captain Hook.
The network’s live broadcast of “The Sound of Music” attracted more than 18 million viewers. NBC has already unveiled plans to mount a live production of “The Music Man” in 2015.
Demand for the show has been high, as more advertisers demonstrate a craving to link to the growing number of live events TV networks are testing to lure bigger crowds. NBC sought more than $350,000 for a 30-second spot in the show, Lovinger said, confirming a previous report in Variety. He declined to name other advertisers in the event, but said the show had support from the restaurant, electronics, movie-studio and wireless categories.
In five Walmart ads slated to run at specific moments during the program, viewers will see actress Melissa Joan Hart and her actual family in scenes that play off “Peter Pan” moments while also showcasing products available at Walmart. Hart is currently involved in Walmart’s holiday campaign.
In the first of the spots produced by NBCUniversal, Hart will read a bedtime story to her family as they talk about pajamas (available, as it might happen, for purchase at the large retailer. In a second, the family will play with a Tinkerbell toy and Hart will show her family a “Lost Boys” tree house lit up in the backyard. In a third, Hart’s sons play in the tree house while shouting “Wendy.” In a fourth, Hart’s family sits around the dinner table preparing to make homemade cookies. In the fifth, and last, Hart reads “Peter Pan” to her kids and talks to them about growing up.
NBC was not able to say whether all the Walmart ads will run immediately after the broadcast cuts to an ad break – where they would have the most relevance – or deeper in the mix of promotions that run in each commercial interruption.
The concept sounds easier to put into practice than the idea Walmart used during its 2013 sponsorship of “The Sound of Music.” As part of that effort, NBC produced a series of spots featuring the Brooks family of Gardner, Kansas, which has 12 children. The clan was spotted at various points in the broadcast doing activities to the strains of the popular tunes from the play. Each spot appeared after the song being featured had been sung in the show.
NBCUniversal actually did a four-day talent search for the family that eventually appeared in the ads, which were also produced by the company without the use of an ad agency.
Mediavest, an ad-buying firm that is part of France’s Publicis Groupe, helped Walmart negotiate the price and placement of its “Peter Pan” campaign.
Marketers have shown new interest in crafting commercials for very specific occasions, a reflection, perhaps, of a desire to emulate the content that drew viewers in the first place, instead of interrupting the experience. “Clients in general are getting more and more creative and more demanding to create content that’s relevant and resonates with not only our viewers but their consumers,” said Lovinger.
NBC and Walmart have a history of teaming up for family fare. In 2010, the retailer and Procter & Gamble joined with NBC to create a TV movie, “Secrets of the Mountain,” that aimed to offer an alternative to what the advertisers viewed as an increase in risqué fare on the boob tube. After “Mountain” ran in April, a similar effort, “The Jensen Project,” aired in July of that year. Broadcasts of the films featured both ads from each company as well as placements of their products and logos in the content itself.
Walmart has been spotted sponsoring other pieces of family fare this week. Last night, the retailer had two different commercials run during ABC’s “Toy Story That Time Forgot.”