Some say the differences between a Web series like In Gayle We Trust, an advertiser-sponsored program that airs on the digital platforms of NBC, and Undercovers, a splashy, big-budget action hour set to premiere on the NBC network this fall, are getting fewer by the year.
And that’s more than fine with Cameron Death (pronounced Deeth), who joined NBC Universal in November 2007 after 10 years with Microsoft. “Viewers are more and more comfortable looking to digital as a place where great entertainment can start,” says Death, who was promoted earlier this month to senior VP and general manger of NBC Universal Digital Studio. “We try to stay true to what those viewers are looking for, and to not abuse their trust by turning this content into an advertorial.”
While at Microsoft, the New Zealand native worked on ventures such as Sidewalk.com and MSN’s Custom Solutions. The latter became the precursor to Death’s current work, teaming advertisers with online content to create Web series such as Kraft’s Chef to the Rescue, designed to lend a hand to busy moms, and Amstel’s Live Tastefully, which highlights the best of local cuisines with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.
Death taps into the company’s vast production and distribution resources to create online content that’s appealing to both audiences and advertisers. In Gayle We Trust, about an insurance agent in a small town, was produced in collaboration with American Family Insurance, while AT&T sponsored another online show, Dial Star, starring 90210’s AnnaLynne McCord. The unit’s latest project, FCU: Fact Checkers Unit, is sponsored by Samsung and features the company’s new phone, Galaxy S, in each episode.
Death says that NBCU’s distribution capabilities— whether a show is on the NBC broadcast network, one of the company’s cable networks or Websites, or even on screens mounted in supermarkets and taxicabs—make his job easier. “There are three things that are important to advertisers,” he says. “High-quality entertainment for viewers; whether that content can move traditional brand metrics; and scale and whether you can get a level of viewership behind your content.”