Monday night’s broadcast of NBC’s “Tonight Show” will feature no opening monologue and no traditional sit-downs with guests. Instead, Fallon will open the program by telling viewers that the entire episode has been shot with the Samsung Galaxy S10+ smartphone, which features an ultra-wide camera lens, and explain that it will showcase some of his favorite New York spots. The collaboration is part of a broad ad deal Samsung has struck with NBCUniversal.
“We know consumer attention is being pulled in so many different directions today. It’s really hard to break through the noise and get people to engage in a way that best communicates the benefits of your products,” says Patricio Paucar, Samsung’s vice president of marketing, in an interview. A better method might rely on having TV programs “showcase” a product, he says, “as opposed to showing them on screen in a commercial.”
Samsung’s smartphone connection to “Tonight” adds a new dimension to one of Madison Avenue’s most-sought formats. For the past few years, certain categories of advertisers have placed new emphasis on late-night TV, eager to get their products in front of younger viewers in unique ways that simply aren’t available in scripted programming (and are cheaper than advertising in primetime).
While each late-night integration is subject to the whims of individual hosts and producers, it’s no secret in ad circles these days that Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, James Corden, Seth Meyers, Samantha Bee and even “Saturday Night Live” are willing to do occasional work with sponsors that makes their products stand apart from others. “Tonight” recently featured a segment, for instance, showing how a robot from FedEx might deliver pizza.
Others have also demonstrated a flair for the creative sales pitch in recent months. “SNL” helped Google craft a commercial that had cast member Kyle Mooney create a “funky video” with a Google Pixel3. And Colbert devoted an entire segment of his “Late Show” on CBS to Google’s Nest video doorbell. He has also interviewed Nigel, a spokes-owl for Sanofi’s Xyzal allergy medication. Kimmel has woven sponsors ranging from Bank of America to Smirnoff into ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Advertisers like the wee-hours tie-ins because they are often designed by the staff of each late-night program and can often be linked to the most recent information and pop culture references. Placements in scripted programs often require ad messages to be woven into a specific plot point or program scene.
“Tonight” viewers will see Fallon, announcer Steve Higgins and house band The Roots dining at Rao’s; Fallon delivering meatballs to New York firefighters; and Fallon and The Roots visit New York jazz club The Django. Fallon will sing with Conor McGregor at New York Irish pub. He will also interview Michael Che at the Comedy Cellar and show comic Rachel Feinstein performing a set there. Fallon and The Roots will also be spotted crooning doo-wop against a New York City backdrop (above, pictured).
NBCUniversal anticipates more demand for this depth of interaction with programming, says Mark Marshall, the company’s president of advertising and client partnerships, in an interview. “I think these types of partnerships are going to become, hopefully, more frequent and done to this level.”
The broadcast is just the latest from “Tonight” to veer from the program’s tried-and-true formula. To celebrate Fallon’s fifth anniversary at the show’s desk, “Tonight” staff recently crafted a tribute to Garry Shandling’s HBO late-night satire “The Larry Sanders Show” that turned “Tonight” for an evening into a scripted event. Fallon has also taken the show to Puerto Rico and Central Park for unusual broadcasts.
Samsung and NBCU have been in talks since around the Consumer Electronics Show, Marshall says. And Samsung had members of its marketing team as well as executives from its media-buying agency, Starcom, available to make certain the smartphone’s features were displayed and explained adequately.
Samsung’s deal with NBCU also places the new Galaxy S10 in the fourth hour of NBC’s ‘Today,” in Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen,” in Telemundo’s “La Voz,” and in E!’s flagship Snapchat show “The Rundown.” Many of the integrations show viewers how they can shoot video with the smartphone.
“We are going to be doing this on a go-forward basis as much as possible,” says Samsung’s Paucar, who suggests the consumer-electronics giant is also working on plans with ABC. “We are excited about breaking new ground and you can expect us to continue.”