NBCUniversal Exec Touts Peacock Advertising Ambitions

Richard Bord/Getty Images for Cannes Lions
Linda Yaccarino, chair, advertising and client partnerships, NBCUniversal

Linda Yaccarino says streamer Peacock will ensure that "the viewer doesn’t experience ad nauseam, the same ad over and over."

NBCUniversal's Linda Yaccarino told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday that the media industry got the consumer experience "really wrong" in live linear TV in the U.S., but the company's planned streaming service Peacock will ensure that "the viewer doesn’t experience ad nauseam the same ad over and over."

During a panel titled “Shaping the Future of Media, Entertainment and Culture,” which also featured Nielsen CEO David Kenny and Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble's chief brand officer, Yaccarino, chairman, advertising and client partnerships at NBCUniversal, spoke about infinite choice and the broad spectrum of content available. She argued that this has meant a “fragmentation of choice” and “what’s coming to be subscription fatigue with all the SVOD opportunities."

That is "completely the reason that has fueled the enthusiasm at NBCUniversal for the launch of Peacock,” which management unveiled last week and which will feature a focus on advertising, she explained. “Because we are bringing it to the marketplace and we can throw out that old legacy playbook, we have a brand-new platform that will be technologically sophisticated, but it is new. So we don’t have to worry about tearing anything down of legacy linear television norms, which in the U.S. is an unbelievable amount of ads from 10 to 15 minutes or so per hour.”

Peacock will limit advertising to 5 minutes an hour or less and provide targeted and personalized ads, “so the viewer doesn’t experience ad nauseam the same ad over and over," she said. "You know it, right, and it follows you around, and you are like, ‘I already purchased that item, stop finding me’! So we will be able to control that, but in a direct way that premium content has never been able before to have that direct conversation with the consumer.” Added Yaccarino: “Hopefully [by] controlling that subscription fatigue and controlling the wallet where if I am able to get as few as possible but the right ads, I actually enjoy that relationship more than paying with no ads.”

Enabling automated ad buying will be a key focus, she told the Davos crowd. "What we are building towards is a fully open, transparent platform that you ultimately can trade automatically, because automation hasn’t come certainly to the linear content publishers in the U.S., and it’s something we have our foot on the gas," she said, adding that this capability was likely to be available over the next two to three years.

Highlighting that Comcast/NBCUniversal's 2020 content investments would reach more than $20 billion and investment in technology $10 billion, Yaccarino said: “The whole goal is to bring those two things [to] an intersection point where we can offer you a mechanism to trade easily and openly with full transparency that you know what content you are getting, where your ad is running and then we’ll be fully accountable.”

Mentioning Comcast's acquisition of European pay TV giant Sky in 2018, Yaccarino on Tuesday also said that “it’s quite an exciting time for the global expansion of our company.”

She was also asked about the role of older media companies in the digital age. “I think we are over the period of time where the industry was experiencing a lot of fear and trepidation about the disruption and the shiny new toy syndrome of the ease of which new companies or new platforms could transact," she said. “We began to embrace our history and legacy and say these are all the good [things] that comes with being a legacy media” company, and “a lot of that comes with consumer confidence and full transparency.”

She added: “We are embracing that and bringing that along with our development or investment in technology to get that superior consumer experience that quite frankly we got really wrong in live linear in the U.S. We took advantage of it, we didn’t respect the relationship of the consumer experience.”

Nowadays, it is not so much about being linear or digital, old company or new company and the like, Yaccarino argued. "We just know in order to reach as many consumers and invest in our own brand health, they don’t differentiate by screen or platform, so you need to figure out a way to be in business together," she said. 

Kenny said abut the upcoming launch of Peacock and other video streaming services that consumers have an appetite for quality, trust and curation amid the current "cacophony" in the marketplace. Said Kenny: “The consumer is looking for more [and improved] discovery. We certainly see some algorithm fatigue.”

And Pritchard warned about a potential content bubble in the age of the streaming wars and Peak TV. “Remember in 2000 when we had the Internet bubble?" he asked attendees of the Davos session. "We could face a content bubble here pretty quickly. And I think what’s going to have to reign is going to be high quality and high trust. .. Companies that can provide that trust will be the ones that reign.”