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Toyota Is First To Sponsor NBCUniversal-AOL Content Alliance

Ad money, so one prevailing theory goes, is moving from TV to online video – and quickly. To get additional ad dollars, however, one big provider of TV content and a prominent digital-media outlet have decided to team up rather than getting dirty in a tug of war.

Toyota Motor has signed on as the launch sponsor of a partnership unveiled in April that will stream video content from NBCUniversal’s various properties on AOL’s “On” outlet that works online, via mobile app and on sundry broadband outlets. The idea, said Dionne Colvin-Lovely, national director of traditional and new media for Toyota Motor Sales, is to place the company’s commercials alongside high-quality content that is delivered to all the places where younger consumers might see it.

“Millennials are more likely to consume content on a mobile device than in front of a TV on the sofa,” she said in an interview. “When we reach people in an online space, we are reaching a light television viewer, and we know we are minimizing the duplication” of efforts already achieved with traditional TV commercials.

Is it a first? A major marketer is admitting that it uses both TV and digital and needs to find smart ways to mix the two. Consumers demand “a seamlessness” between high-quality video from companies like NBCUniversal and access to it through digital venues like AOL, said Colvin-Lovely. Toyota is sort of  “buying the Venn diagram” by agreeing to advertise in a venture that mixes different media, said Bob Lord, president of AOL Inc, in an interview.

Neither Lord nor Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships at NBCUniversal, would comment on how much Toyota was spending on the initiative. But Lord qualified the money as “extra spend” beyond what either company secured with the automaker individually.

The NBCUniversal content made available through the AOL partnership includes clips from shows such as “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Saturday Night Live,” “The Blacklist,” and suits “Suits,” as well as content from its news properties such as “Morning Joe,” and “The Rachel Maddow Show,” and Hispanic programming, including “Al Rojo Vivo” and “Un Nueva Dia.”  As part of the distribution deal, AOL receives exclusive access to clips from “The Biggest Loser,” “Watch What Happens Live,” “The Profit” and “American Greed. Under terms of the pact, NBCU and AOL have been exploring ways of having AOL personalities appear on certain NBCU programs and are expected to co-develop and co-produce original streaming-video series that can appear in outlets that either one operates.

Toyota will sponsor the aforementioned programming, but will also attach its promotions to new ideas that could spin out of the NBCU-AOL collaboration. Those could include long form videos or content tailored for mobile audiences, said Colvin-Lovely, the Toyota executive. The deal was borne out of the digital “newfronts,”  a series of Spring pitches from digital-media companies to Madison Avenue, he said.

Toyota has advertised with both companies for some time. The automaker has, for example, sponsored an annual summer concert series shown on NBC’s “Today” and has also bought ads on AOL properties like Huffington Post, Engadget and TechCrunch.

The deal suggests new types of arrangements that could come to pass as more traditional media companies join forces with or invest in new outlets and upstarts. While the AOL pact was announced in April, NBCU has since that time invested $200 million each in Vox and BuzzFeed, two of the web’s better known digital-media outlets. “These are very strategic partnerships” that are supposed to boost both companies, said Yaccarino. “It’s not about linear versus digital.”


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