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NBCU Taps People’s Choice Awards to Blend Commercials, Content

Viewers who tune in to the broadcast of the 2018 People’s Choice Awards this weekend on E! won’t have to work too hard to find advertisers getting in on the event.

Subaru will be active during scenes shot from the awards-show red carpet. EBay will sponsor shots of what’s happening backstage. T-Mobile will sponsor a musical performance by Rita Ora, which will be live-streamed on Snapchat. E! talent will be wearing jewelry pieces from Zales. And TV watches are likely to note the use of a new ad format – NBCU dubs it “picture in picture” – that puts an ad on the screen without completely breaking away from the program.

“For the past year our sales organization has been hyper-committed to making commercials work harder for our advertisers, that required looking past traditional :15s, :30s, and :60 second spots and doing some really unique things,” says Laura Molen,  president, advertising sales and partnerships at NBCUniversal, in an email exchange. “This is about making commercials smarter to keep our audiences engaged, ultimately aiding our advertisers’ messaging.”

NBCUniversal isn’t the first to weave live moments from an advertiser into an awards program, as anyone who has watched MTV’s Video Music Awards over the years can tell you. But its efforts come as broadcast networks are working harder to pitch advertisers on awards programs, which have suffered in the ratings in recent years but remain reliable generators of the large audiences many marketers need to reach to make commercials cost effective.

E!’s broadcast of the People’s Choice Awards is its first. The show, aired on CBS for decades, had been owned and produced by consumer-products giant Procter & Gamble, which would use it to advertise products like laundry detergent Tide. The show has been opened in the past to commercials from rivals. One year, attendants at the ceremony passed out slices of Kraft Foods’ DiGiorno’s Pizza.

In 2018, however, the show is NBCUniversal’s full responsibility. “We’ve seen across the portfolio that live-event programming is incredibly popular with advertisers as it reaches a multigenerational audience that is connected to the program on all platforms,” says Molen.

Some of the event’s biggest advertisers will work to enhance the show, rather than interrupting it completely. Subaru hopes the use of “picture-in-picture advertising” will leave viewers with more access to the celebrities they want to see. The automaker will also have an exclusive sponsorship of an “arrival cam.”

In addition to offering backstage shots, EBay intends to offer two  deals aligned to the program during commercial breaks. “We look forward to offering their viewers instantly shoppable experiences during the People’s Choice Awards, connecting them with inventory on our platform, from the latest trending items to hard-to-find styles,” says Suzy Deering, EBay Americas’ chief marketing officer, in a statement.

Fans will be able to vote on which Zales baubles E! on-air personalities will wear, leading up to a reveal on screen later in the evening.

 (Above, pictured: Actor Johnny Depp from the 2016 People’s Choice Awards)

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