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Upfronts 2018: NBCU takes Facebook to task

While extolling the virtues of the company’s unequaled assets, the theme of its upfront, NBCUniversal Media LLC executives took shots at Facebook Inc. during its May 14 upfront presentation to advertisers.

NBCU CEO Steve Burke, following a sizzle reel production that touched on the company’s myriad properties, quickly noted that "digital companies are being accused of invasion of people’s privacy, accused of false measurement."

Burke did not mention the social media and advertising giant by name, as he left that to Linda Yaccarino, chairman, advertising, & client partnerships NBCUniversal, who was edited into Facebook Founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent turn before Congressional committees in the wake of the company's mishandling of consumer data.

In a faux film, Yaccarino sat down before a Senate committee, before pulling out a kid’s booster seat from her chair. "Someone give that back to Zuckerberg," she said in the spoof video.

On the Radio City Music Hall stage, Yaccarino added that "you just heard me answer a lot of questions," alluding to her responses in the send-up of the hearings.

"Well, I am here today to answer the one question that’s on all of our minds: 'Where should I invest my marketing dollars to get the biggest possible impact?' You know my answer. Nothing reaches people's minds like television. Nothing reaches their hearts like television," she said.

Yaccarino then proceeded to say that in her view, no company does television like NBCU, citing talent and shows that were on display at the upfront, notably the U.S. women's gold medal-winning hockey team from the Winter Olympics.

"When is the last time you’ve seen a standing ovation at an upfront? We just blew the doors off Radio City and that was our intention. To give you a taste of what we do every day, on every channel, on every screen," she said, before taking another shot at Facebook and social media.

"You get it all under one roof. When the social media guys can do that, just let me know. But I wouldn't hold your breath. We're not in the 'likes' business. We're in the results business," Yaccarino noted.

Her comments also included a call to ad investment arms: "Nothing moves people — and product — like television. Because nothing pushes people through that purchase funnel like television."

Facebook did not bear the brunt of Yaccarino’s assault alone, as she took the measurement companies to task.

"The last time there was a meaningful update to the currency of TV advertising [was in 2007]," she said, "11 years ago, we used flip phones. Now we use smartphones."

NBCU, however, is deploying artificial intelligence to help make advertising more contextually relevant and is using "CFlight" measurement to help drive some deals.

CFlight is an impressions-based metric that provides a composite score tied to measurement from third-party sources, including Nielsen Holdings, comScore Inc. and Moat. The metric cuts across live and DVR audiences as well as viewing from mobile, desktop, video-on-demand and over-the-top platforms. NBCU said it would guarantee campaigns based on the metric, based on the number of impressions of average commercial minute ratings by demographic.

NBCU used a similar metric, Total Audience Delivery, during the Winter Games from Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the programmer for the first time melded average-minute viewing among persons 2+ on broadcaster NBC (US), cable network NBCSN (US) and streaming on NBCOlympics.com and NBC Sports app.