by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
advertising, content

nbc universal

NBC Universal Realizes That Ads Are Content Too

from the good-for-them dept

For years, we've been trying to convince people to stop thinking of ads and content as two separate things. Ads are content and content are ads. This doesn't mean that content needs to be infused with product placement, but just that you recognize that any bit of content advertises something. At the same time, it also should make companies rethink how they view ads. After all people will actively seek out good commercials because they enjoy the content. As has been pointed out repeatedly, people don't hate advertising, they hate annoying, intrusive and irrelevant advertising since it wastes their time. But good advertisements are content and people seek out good content.

NBC was actually one of the earlier entertainment companies to at least grasp this concept, and have experimented with a variety of attempts to make commercials more entertaining and interesting, from turning them into mini-movies with plots of their own to even doing product placement within commercials. Now, NBC Universal has announced plans to set up a new site called, which is going to make tons of old commercials available online. The NBC execs quoted in the story seem a little too giddy about the prospect of people swarming to the site to see old commercials (and also in the semi-ridiculous idea of social networking around what commercials you like), but it does show yet another glimmer of realization that the barrier between "ads" and "content" went away a long time ago.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Stephen, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 6:43am

    terry tate

    there's a reason i have a copy of the terry tate/nike ad that parodies "office space" somewhat on my computer, and it's not because i care about terry tate or nike. it's because it's funny. which brings up the prime problem of ads as entertainment: in their attempt to entertain, do they lose their effectiveness as ads?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Ajax 4Hire, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 6:58am

    Movie makers have learned this years ago..

    Wave of the future.

    Movie makers will actively petition manufactures for ad placement.
    the James Bond Drive, Transformers are all GM, Is it a Coke or Pepsi movie?

    Some television producers are beginning to realize the benefit: "24" is a Dell and Ford commercial.
    With the advent of TiVO and other technology to skip commercials, Television will need to move to the Movie maker model and do continuous ad/product placement; there will be no pause for a commercial because the commercials will be integral to the content.

    content is ad is content.
    Wave of the future.
    it coming, you can either surf it or be rolled under it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Shawn, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 7:05am

    People Don't Hate Advertising?

    Only an ad man could actually believe that people don't hate commercials. I am a person, and a fairly typical one, and I hate them all, without exception. FYI. Long live TiVo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 7:21am

    Re: People Don't Hate Advertising?

    No, people other than ad men can like commercials. i fast forward through a majority of commercials because a *huge* majority of them are annoying. but sometimes one will catch my eye for whatever reason. if all people hated advertising, commercials wouldn't be such a big deal during the Super Bowl. too bad they just don't try that hard all the time with their commercials. unless the NFL patented or copyrighted good commercials so they can only air during the Super Bowl.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 7:24am

    NBC was somewhat creative with their Chuck advertising. I watched an entire 10-15 second clip or something over a few minute span. Mainly because it was made specifically for DVR users. It's basically almost like a subliminal message thing where a bunch of text, images, & video are flashed really quickly on the screen. Only way to watch & read it all is with a DVR. That was an interesting enough hook to get me to watch and to talk about it to other people. It also lead me to find out more about it and that it was actually about a new show they're going to have (surprisingly, you couldn't really figure this out from the commercial, you could guess, but thats it).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 7:26am

    Re: terry tate

    the point of ads isn't so much to convince you that they're the best. its just to get their name in your head. if they do it right, when you go out to buy that type of product, you'll think of them. and if they had great commercials, you'll think of them in a positive light. you'll already have a bias (a good one) when deciding between their and someone else's type of product.

    For example, going out to eat.
    "Hey, where you wanna get something to eat?"
    "Let's go to blah."
    "I dunno. First thing to pop in my head."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Aug 9th, 2007 @ 7:52am


    Are they going to have all of the Geico commercials on there?
    Those are great.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Nasty Old Geezer, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 7:59am

    Re: People Don't Hate Advertising?

    I don't hate advertising in general, I just want a way to limit what ads appear. I ignore most of them because they have no relevance to me. A few I actively dispise -- for example, there is a local BMW dealer that has the most arrogantly condescending ads I have ever seen. But, some ads I find useful and/or amusing.

    Interstingly enough, many "good" ads -- even award-winning ones -- are not effective because viewers don't remember the product being advertised.

    Bottom line though, without the ads, there would be no "free" content.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Tin Ear, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 8:12am

    Commercials aren't all bad.

    I remember that years ago I got the biggest laugh from a simple commercial. I haven't seen one like it in years, but while it ran, I always got more than a chuckle from it.

    It went like this:

    You see a DQ logo on a white screen. Suddenly you hear a Tarzan yell and a banana swings in from stage left on a vine. As the vine reaches center screen, the banana falls off the vine. Fast cut to the top of a waffle cone and a scoop of ice cream lands on top with a squishy noise. Cut to logo and pitchman voice-over announcing some flavor of ice cream cone they were pitching.

    All in all a nice, short piece with a message, but delivered in such a manner that always made me smile.

    On a side note, has anyone watched the Cleo Awards on TV? That's like the Oscars for the best commercials. I try to catch it every year. Some 15 and 30 second spots are not just entertaining, they are brilliant!

    Then there were ads like the early Infinity cars ads that had other ad-men referring to their dealerships as "ashrams" instead of showrooms. Remember those?

    I guess my point is that while commercials are a necessary 'evil' on TV, the producers go to a lot of trouble to put something out that will tempt you to buy the product without insulting your intelligence. Some fail, but more do the job quite well. For me, most of them I tune out. Once in a while one of them catches my attention and tickles my funnybone. I will continue to watch.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    ike, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 8:16am

    My girlfriend didn't have tv for a while. This help her notice that her friends talked more about the commercials they had seen than the tv shows they had seen. Didja sounds like a great idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Duane, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 8:25am

    So Close. FIRE!

    If you can name that commercial, you'll know the longevity of a GOOD commercial!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Lars Calls, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 8:48am


    Intrusive, abusive, irritating ads also cause me to shut off my listening to any ad because I have learned to think that ads are irritating. To bad for the good ones.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 9:13am

    Seems like I can't go to a major movie anymore without some sort of product placement. I actually think it's kinda neat, and even funny, how the products get portrayed (the Nintendo Wii in Transformers that gets turned into an evil robot is hilarious). To me, this is not obnoxious, annoying, and irrelevant advertising. It's fun and entertaining (rewatch the movie to see how many product placements you can find! LOL), and I think the actual advertising part works really well too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    charlie potatoes, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 9:19am

    jack in the box commercial

    Jack is asked if people will find his 'sirloin burger' more attractive than the competitor's 'Angus'... best commercial in a long time, it made me laugh out loud.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Elohssa, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 9:43am

    Re: People Don't Hate Advertising?

    Different strokes, hoss. I'm no football fan, but for a few excellent years that you whipper-snappers probably don't recall, I watched the Super Bowl without fail just for the Bud Bowl commercials. They were the best commercials ever, and when they stopped playing them (for reasons I will never understand,) I stopped watching the Super Bowl.

    Maybe I'm weird, but I'm probably not the only weird one out there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Stephen, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 9:48am


    No maybe about it. You're weird.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Josh (profile), Aug 9th, 2007 @ 10:08am

    Re: People Don't Hate Advertising?

    Shawn, you seem pretty adamant about hating commercials. I have to ask though, how did you wind up coming to this site? Did you hear about it from a friend, click on a link, or just happened to defy all odds and randomly type in characters in the URL to navigate here.

    All but the last were because of some form of advertisement, i.e. they were commercials.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    jay, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 11:35am

    Re: terry tate

    the terry tate commercials aren't nike. They are reebok. I guess that proves how ineffective entertainment ads can be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Gary, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 12:14pm

    Who said that advertising is the porn of capitalism?

    Ads are annoying. Period. If you need to advertise your product, then you are trying to create a market for a product that isn't needed or you're trying to increase demand. Otherwise a balance exists between supply and demand. For example, do you ever ads on TV for car towing? USB thumb drives? Pencils?

    Maybe I'm wrong and there are commercials for these things, but are they "content"? No. It's noise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Andrew Pass, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 12:31pm

    Re: terry tate

    Of course they don't lose their effectiveness as ads. Indeed, they probably gain greater effectiveness. Think gym shoes, what do you think of first? I bet the answer is Nike. That's the purpose of an ad.

    Check out my living textbook:

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 3:00pm


    Off the top of your head, name a towing company.

    Some companies don't need to advertise because either
    A) They're locally based and therefore just get their consumer base their (not many towing companies in one area, therefore if you want to find one, you normally just look for the closest one... not one who advertised)
    B) They're heavily branded and therefore only have commercials about their name. Sometimes Nike commercials have *just* commercials about their name and "Just Do It".
    c) In the computer world, very little is actually advertised on TV. Why? Because their advertising is on the computer. USB thumb drives? Go to a site that manufactures them, I'm sure they have a very ad-like sounding page dedicated to them.

    You have to put the content where your target audience will find them. Pencils are too common. You won't call a place and say, "do you have these kind of pencils?" no, you just go to your local store and look to see at the selection and choose.

    There is a purpose to commercials. They are required. That's like saying salesmen are completely irrelevant. Do you really think if I opened a restaurant, did *no* advertising, that people will just magically come? Advertising also informs people that your product exists. It's like campaigning. Would you vote for somebody who didn't campaign at all?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    yogi, Aug 9th, 2007 @ 3:31pm

    Hasn't anyone read the

    Space Merchants?
    It's a great sci-fi book by Fredrik Pohl ans C. Kornbluth describing exactly this kind of society: ad placement as part of life, or should i say - life as a part of an ongoing omnipresent marketing campaign. pretty terrifying stuff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Gary, Aug 10th, 2007 @ 9:21am

    I've read "The Space Merchants." Written in the 1950s, it's a prescient book.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Jayson C., Aug 15th, 2007 @ 4:42pm

    Commercial Content

    I agree with most of the comments posted here and I have wonder why Ads as content aren't more wide spread given the advent of DVR's. If advertisors are so concerned with things like Tivo and people just skipping the commercials they just have to be willing to spend a little more time and money to sell as well as entertain. Personally I'm a fan of the Gieco commercials and if there were more like that I wouldn't care about commercials.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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