As cities and states enacted different lockdown policies during the pandemic, advertisers were challenged to customize their messaging for local media markets. At the same time, they were looking for scale within those local markets with their television advertising.

“The pandemic reminded everyone that what works in New York might not work in Florida,” Shawn Makhijani, head of NBC Spot On at NBCUniversal, said in this interview with Beet.TV. “The local platforms of today have to offer this, and most importantly, they have to offer scale in every market in the country.”

NBCUniversal last year launched NBC Spot On to provide local advertisers with access to premium digital inventory from its platforms and those of third parties, letting run over-the-top (OTT) and connected TV (CTV) campaigns in preferred designated market areas (DMAs). NBCUniversal later expanded its inventory across its One App, which includes NBC, Bravo, E!, USA, Oxygen, MSNBC and Syfy, along with platforms like YouTube and Apple News.

“We started NBC Spot On because we wanted to offer an advanced advertising platform specifically built for local,” Makhijani said. “NBCUniversal has always been committed to local, and there was this gap in the market where we could really offer our own inventory plus third-party so that consumers could get a brand-safe environment and really scaled, targeted audiences locally.”

Local TV markets have evolved since the days of buying ad inventory from a local station, now giving advertisers a way to reach audience groups with geotargeted digital video. During last year’s presidential election and other regional campaigns, local TV advertising was in greater demand.

“It really tested the platform, and proved the platform could deliver what both our clients and we demand in this space,” Makhijani said. “In local in the OTT space, if you’re buying Kansas City, Wichita, New York and Chicago, you want all four of those campaigns to deliver impressions you’ve bought.”

Local Targeting

NBC Spot On has local inventory from other third parties, not just in markets where the company owns stations. Its reach extends to more than 200 DMAs nationwide, and provides behavioral and demographic targeting for advertisers seeking key audience groups.

“Local today is not just defined by where we own television stations,” Makhijani said. “We service all local markets.”

As a major producer of content, NBCUniversal also has significant scale and a large volume of OTT inventory to provide scale to advertisers. Its OTT offering includes Peacock, its ad-based video-on-demand (AVOD) service that was started last year, and other third-party platforms.

“A lot of these people who have OTT inventory don’t have a local sales force,” Makhijani said. “We’re able to buy that inventory and create a platform where we’re the one-stop shop. We think it’s a key differentiator. All of this inventory is premium.”

NBC Spot On also is integrated with FreeWheel, the advertising technology company that’s also owned by Comcast.

“We develop a lot of new products with them,” Makhijani said. “They’re also helping us innovate, and we’re continuing to innovate with them based on feedback that we’re hearing from our clients of what’s the 2.0 in this industry.”