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Direct Response Marketing

DR Pros Weigh in on NBC, AmEx’s New T-commerce Partnership

14 Nov, 2012 By: Doug McPherson

NEW YORK – The new partnership between NBCUniversal and American Express is sparking plenty of talk in the direct response world. The two companies announced an alliance this month that’s allowing consumers to buy products directly from a mobile device while they watch TV.

The campaign includes a series of 30-second custom vignettes that ran on each participating network beginning Nov. 7. The spots feature talent from the shows providing inspiration for the products, including Fabio Viviani (Bravo's "Life After Top Chef") and George Kotsiopoulos (E!'s "Fashion Police"). The on-air creative will also run online across DailyCandy,,, and

The program will use zeebox, the companion TV viewing platform for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android and the Web that recently announced a partnership with NBCUniversal and Comcast Cable (among others) to provide two-screen technology that combines TV and social media with commerce.

The zeebox app will let NBC viewers get information on how to buy show-inspired items, including fashion and kitchenware. Plans are for each participating show to have a page tailored to reflect its style (e.g., with features like exclusive games, behind-the-scenes photos and facts, trivia and unique offers). So, there will be content surrounding the shows, as well as purchase opportunities.

The initial vignettes are featuring show talent asking viewers to download the zeebox app and encouraging American Express members to take advantage of the special offer. The second series of vignettes feature talent telling viewers to check out the weekly item for sale. Each week, a new show-inspired product will be offered.

Linda Yaccarino, president of NBCUniversal ad sales, calls the arrangement a “seamless way to capture viewers’ attention around the products and experiences featured on the shows they love, [narrowing] the path-to-purchase for consumers," all the while offering perks to AmEx card members (who can get $35 back when using an eligible AmEx card that’s synced with their Facebook or Twitter accounts).

"We know today's consumers are on other screens while watching television," Yaccarino says. "NBCUniversal’s … portfolio uniquely positions us to meet the needs of any brand that wants to activate consumers in this unparalleled way."

Members of Response’s Advisory Board expressed interest in and high hopes for the new program when queried. Peter Koeppel, owner of Koeppel Direct, a media agency in Dallas, is impressed by the partnership so far.

“Whenever you have two major brands like NBCUniversal and American Express teaming up in this type of venture, it captures your attention, since they have the resources to try to make this work,” Koeppel said. “There may not be any short-term application for DR marketers, but as this venture evolves, it may result in new channels for marketers to sell their products or services. On the other hand, I’ve seen many new technologies come and go over the years, so the chance of success for this venture is far from certain.”

Robert B. Yallen, president and CEO of the Inter/Media Group of Companies in Woodland Hills, Calif., said DR marketers “by definition create a sense of urgency in how they position their products and services to the marketplace. Technology is now catching up to be able to enhance even further trial and purchase by telescoping the gap between the commercial messaging and the intent to act. There is nothing new here – but for the ability of marketers to continue to expand and refine the model that now through technology has become attractive to the more brand oriented mainline advertiser.” 

David Savage, managing partner of R2C Group, a DR agency headquartered in Portland, Ore., says, to him, the most exciting part of the program is the product information that consumers will be provided. “While this has been envisioned for years, social media behaviors are so mainstream now that this application has a real chance for success,” Savage said from his Philadelphia-area office.

And Tim Hawthorne, president of Hawthorne Direct, a DR firm based in Fairfield, Iowa, said, “The Holy Grail of T-commerce, since the launch of Qube in 1977, has been an easy, fast, interactive response tool to replace the entrenched telephone. Social TV apps like Zeebox might just finally get us there.”

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