In an elaborate pitch to 200 blue-chip advertisers and ad buyers Wednesday, NBC touted its ability to beam programming and ads into places like gas stations, gyms, sports venues, hospital rooms and commuter trains.
Taking the stage at Studio 8-H, home of “Saturday Night Live,” execs touted the Peacock’s perch in the rapidly growing “out-of-home” ad market. Trying to reach busy viewers when they’re off the couch has become an attractive option for networks and advertisers beset by a fragmenting, DVR-obsessed audience. And the writers strike isn’t calming any nerves.
“This is the second-fastest-growing space after the Internet,” said Beth Comstock, NBC Universal’s prexy of Integrated Media. “There is high recall for this content, and mobile consumers are willing to engage.”
Data is somewhat scarce for the out-of-home market, a separate category from outdoor billboards, bus shelters and the like. It is projected by independent research firm PQ Media to grow 26% this year to $1.6 billion, reaching $3.2 billion in 2011. Others tracking the category, such as eMarketer, have less robust numbers but do see strong growth.
Market research firm SeeSaw Networks, in a recent white paper, called the trend “life pattern marketing” and noted that it creates a desirable perception of ubiquity without heavy ad buys or risk of brand burnout.
It isn’t just NBC jumping in. CBS last fall bought SignStorey, which distributes programming and advertising to retail stores, for $71.5 million.
The slightly ominous-sounding NBC Everywhere division, unveiled in November, has quietly spent two years researching and testing these waters. Wednesday’s event was the first time the net had made a public show of the business, and it threw in announcements of a presence in two arenas: college campuses and gyms.
Through partnerships with IdeaCast and the University Network, NBC will now reach 900 gyms and 181 campuses around the country.
As in those two cases, many corners of the landscape are reached through partnerships that allow all parties to share the costs of installing and maintaining screens in non-traditional places.
A short video shown at the beginning of Wednesday’s event included brief pitches from stars of NBC shows, including Tina Fey, Howie Mandel and Steve Carell.
The bullish case for the out-of-home market is that demographics can be precisely targeted, brands integrated and audiences tracked, all to a greater degree than with traditional TV viewing.
One example from NBC’s portfolio is the Newborn Channel, which is operating in about 1,000 hospitals around the country. By blending new-parent programming from the NBC-owned iVillage with ads from formula or stroller purveyors, it allows for attachments to be formed at a crucial time, execs said.
“My wife just had a baby eight weeks ago and they had the channel in our room,” said Mark French, senior VP and GM of NBC Everywhere. “It is imperative that you watch it and interact with it.”
NBC@ the Game has flat-panel TVs in 34 sports venues around the country, including Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park. Wait times at concession stands average about 10 minutes, French noted, so why not fill that time with a bit of ad-embedded “30 Rock”?