The Midwestern insurer will for three weeks, starting Tuesday evening, run commercials designed by the network that make use of the popular drama’s flashbacks and flash-forwards, in the hope that using a popular element from the program will keep viewers from tuning away or getting out of their seats during commercial breaks. Voice-overs for the ads will be delivered by a member of the series’ cast.
“You don’t have this for every show. We can play our regular ads in any of the entertainment programs across the 200 to 500 different platforms consumers have,” said Ed Gold, director of advertising for State Farm, in an interview. “You do make this kind of effort for the right opportunity.”
State Farm’s efforts mirror those of other advertisers who are identifying particular programs and events and working harder to devise commercials that are specific to those pieces of entertainment. The theory is that, just as commercials aired during the Super Bowl are designed with that extravaganza in mind, ads tailored for individual viewing opportunities will draw greater attention.
“The more we can align an emotional connection with the right show and the right message, the better it does for a brand,” said Mark Marshall, executive vice president of entertainment ad sales for NBCUniversal. “I think we will have more and more people doing that.” NBC has in recent months offered to give some advertisers a chance to run commercials tied in to “Saturday Night Live.”
State Farm clearly has had its eye on “This Is Us.” In 2016, the company spent $310,000 on advertising aligned with the show, according to data from Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. But in the first nine months of 2017, it spent $880,000.
The series, said Gold, “is one of the few – probably the only show that grows its ratings on a weekly basis across live viewing and video on demand, let alone playback as well. We haven’t seen a show like this since ‘Empire” came out on Fox.” The average cost of a 30-second spot in “This Is Us” has soared more than 65% since its debut last season, according to Variety’s annual survey of primetime ad costs. A 30-second ad this season had been going for $394,314, compared with $237,910 last season.
The 30-second ads, which will show a family members in different stages of their lives, will each run in the first slot of a designated commercial break during “This Is Us,” and then be followed by more traditional State Farm advertising.
In addition to running in “This Is Us,” the content will receive additional distribution through social medi and run on a custom page on NBC.com. NBC and State Farm will ask fans of the show to submit photos of special value to their families using a special hashtag. The ads will also run on NBCUniversal-owned TV stations, while BuzzFeed, owned in part by NBCU, will run the custom ads and create special posts about State Farm products. Vox Media, also part owned by NBCU, will create a branded article that combines elements from both “This Is Us” and State Farm ad messages.
NBC’s Marshall said he has been trying for months to devise an ad package that would link State Farm to the drama. “At its core, the show is about family,” he said, and, he believed, would pair up well with a message about insurance.