NBCUniversal’s branded content offerings have thrived with campaigns tied to such Peacock hits as “This Is Us” and Today” as well as wholly original campaigns not connected to any NBCU properties. The company’s campaigns have ranged from emotional tributes to family fare to online comedy.
Many branded content studios aspire to the same success, but NBCU’s branded content operations have a secret weapon few of its rivals can match: It recruits talent from NBCU TV shows to staff branded content offerings.
“At NBC we have a team at the Content Studio that actually maps our organization, to help brands create original content by tapping into storytellers,” said Wendy Wildfeuer, senior VP of NBCUniversal’s Content Studio, on Thursday at the Brand Storytelling conference in Park City, Utah (co-located with the start of the Sundance Film Festival).
Later, Wildfeuer told Variety, “When we launched the Content Studio, we created a new capability where we actually are using showrunners, writers, directors, producers and what not to create brand content that’s not connected to their existing shows.”
Josh Feldman, executive VP, integrated marketing and network partnerships, told Variety, “We would be remiss not to tap into all of the talent across NBCU but to use them in a different way.”
Feldman and Wildfeuer, who presented together at the conference, oversee two different branded content units within NBCU. He oversees Network Partnerships; his unit works with brands to create branded content tied to NBC’s shows and intellectual property. Their presentation included two campaigns from his unit: A TJ Maxx campaign tied to “This is Us” and a State Farm campaign tied to “Today.”
The presentation also included a campaign for a yogurt brand not connected to any NBC show. That falls under Wildfeuer’s brief. She oversees the NBCU Content Studio proper, which creates bespoke content for advertisers for distribution online only.
Both of NBCU’s branded content units identify and reach out to talent from anywhere within NBCU that is a good fit for a brand campaign. No one is obligated to participate;. “There’s a benefit to (the talent),” says Wildfeuer, “because they actually get diversity in the work that they’re doing. We’ve found from our network leads that there’s a lot of interest.”
The NBCU Content Studio has an exclusive partnership with Broadway Video to create branded comedy, announced in April 2017. Broadway Video even created the studio’s pitch reel, an infomercial spoof. (pictured above)
Broadway Video’s independent subsidiary Above Average is also in the branded comedy video business and creates content for NBCU Content Studio. Above Average draws on current and former Saturday Night Live writers for its projects. At the conference, Above Average debuted a tongue-in-cheek “History of Branded Content.”
But NBCU Content Studio’s efforts to leverage its talent relationships extend beyond Lorne Michaels’ company, and beyond comedy.
Feldman emphasized, “The key word is story. If we don’t have great story, we’re never going to engage our consumers, and that’s what it’s all about.”