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NBC's Olympic Ad Triumph Is Hard To Watch


The biggest winner of the Winter Olympics does not have a gold medal around its neck, because it is not an athlete. It is NBC, which is capturing a larger-than-expected audience and, less than halfway through the Games, is seeking to recruit new advertisers to get in on the party.

Olympic Blur

There is one thing, though, that stands out about AdWeek’s report of NBC’s success, because it does not match up with observable reality.

“According to (NBC Broadcasting and Sports chairman Mark) Lazarus, 90 percent of the Winter Olympics ad buys were across all platforms.” Watching the action on NBC’s app, you might think that there were very few advertisers for these Olympics.

Walmart has two ads in rotation for its online delivery service, one using Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” and another using Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell,” plus another spot for in-store pickup. These commercials play after something like every five luge or skeleton runs.

Watching ski jumping, the seemingly exclusive advertising honors belong to Nabisco, which has three very short spots that run together, in the same order, every time. First, viewers learn that Ted Ligety’s “can’t miss moments” begin with Chips Ahoy. Then, Chloe Kim’s “can’t miss moments” begin with Ritz crackers. Finally, Ted Ligety’s “cant miss moments” begin with Oreo.

“But they just told us that Ted Ligety’s ‘can’t miss moments’ start with Chips Ahoy,” said one frustrated viewer in the Spector household, who is extremely correct.

There are two more ads that appears regularly, with United Healthcare showcasing the ability to videochat with a doctor by having some klutz dad fall and knock over a bookshelf while the mom gets word that whatever is happening with their baby is totally normal. There’s a lot to unpack in that commercial, and by the end of these two weeks, that may be possible. Last but not least, there’s Samsung with an ad in which a lot of people are told they can’t do things, before a virtual reality helmet helps that “can’t” into “can” for a woman learning to walk with a prosthetic leg. It’s inspiring, except for all the other people in the ad, whose fates we never learn as they try to succeed in sports or play guitar.

And that’s pretty much it. Other times, when an event is stopped and a commercial break is in progress, the screen on NBC’s app will turn blue, with the words “COMMERCIAL BREAK IN PROGRESS” on the screen to let you know that a commercial break is in progress.

These are not the hallmarks of 90 percent of ad buys being “across all platforms.” In fact, it seems an awful lot like the experience on Major League Baseball’s streaming service, which just ran ads from local broadcasts until someone realized that money could be made by selling ads specifically for MLB.TV. The problem there, again, is that they have like four ads, which fans see during every inning break, and then in their nightmares through the winter.

What is strange about this is that these should be premium ad spots. People watching sports through streaming services, rather than on over-the-air television, constitute a younger audience, as well as one inclined to stick around through the commercials rather than flipping channels – because to flip channels is to leave the app entirely. Even with smaller audiences – in fact, maybe even because of the smaller audiences and their ability to be data-mined into oblivion – advertisers should be going gaga for the opportunity to get their messages into these spots. NBC, for as well as it has done with the PyeongChang Games, still has more ground to cover, because whether or not it’s really 90 percent of ad buys going across all platforms as they say, Chloe Kim’s “can’t miss moments” start with Ritz.


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