NBC Announces Machine Learning To Push Ads Tied To Moments On TV

NBCUniversal has announced a machine learning tool that will tie advertisements to relevant moments on television; for example, wedding scene might be followed by an advertisement for champagne or other products related to tying the knot. 

The Contextual Intelligence Platform will analyze programming scripts, closed-captioning data and visual descriptors contained within both shows and advertisements to match relevant content, while also determining "an emotional gauge for each scene determined by proprietary algorithms," according to AdWeek

Focus groups for ads placed with the platform thus far have shown an average bump of 19 percent in brand memorability, 13 percent in likability and 64 percent in message memorability, according to Josh Feldman, evp and head of marketing and advertising creative, NBCU.

The announcement comes as linear television providers continue to grapple with how to bring digital targeting practices to a medium that still largely operates on traditional phone-call media buying and manual ad placements. -AdWeek

NBC is now working with up to five advertisers for the system's trial run, and is aiming for a full rollout in early 2019. While the company has declined to reveal which brands are participating in the trials, NBC has acknowledged that they were selected from a range of consumer categories - including studios, retailers and packaged goods. 

"Before there was machine learning, there was common sense," said Feldman, the NBC Executive VP, adding "When my team created something for an advertiser that was a really heartfelt piece of marketing, we would make sure that the spot ran on heartfelt-type programming as opposed to, say, slapstick comedy. We’ve been doing this on a manual basis for a long time—but now we’re going to be able to do it at scale."

And now, NBC's advertising sales department will be able to use machine learning to automate the process on all content except for live media such as news and sports. 

"This is going to be a big part of our conversations with advertisers for next year’s Upfront," said Feldman. "Our sales leads are fully up-to-speed on this; this is a project that Linda Yaccarino has personally blessed and thinks is a game-changer for us."

NBC's svp of advanced advertising products and strategy, Denise Colella, says that the "Contextual Intelligence" platform is the future of advertising. 

While the platform will simply provide advertisers with a media buying plan based on relevant scenes, NBCU’s product team is already working on ways to expand it to the point where it will be able to place ads automatically. Denise Colella, svp of advanced advertising products and strategy, NBCU, said the Contextual Intelligence Platform is part of a broader push to better integrate linear television with digital advertising techniques. -AdWeek

"I don’t like to think of the products individually but think of them as a suite that builds on one another," said Colella. "When you look at digital premium sites, you’re looking at thematic advertising in context. The goal is to bring that to linear television and to make sure the ads match the audience involved, the audience matches the context involved and that we’re able to carry that experience across platforms. That’s really where we’re going." 

Meanwhile, NBCU also announced an on-demand targeted advertising format for live and time-shifted media for all of its subsidiaries to be rolled out next year.