By Brian Steinberg
Tonight on NBC, some of the ads will be alive with the sounds of “The Sound of Music.”
As the Peacock makes an attempt to draw eyeballs this evening at 8 p.m. eastern with a live broadcast of the famous 1959 musical, retail giant Walmart will air customized ads featuring the Brooks family of Gardner City, Kansas, which has 12 children, all doing activities to the strains of the popular tunes from the play. Indeed, Walmart will air five thirty-second ads in all, each timed to run just after the song being featured in each spot has been sung in the show.
NBC hopes the show will bring families together and “kind of wanted this to enhance the excitement,” said Dan Lovinger, exec veep of entertainment ad sales at NBCU. “The idea is to create these customized vignettes around this real-life family that correspond to and mirror what is going on in the show.”
The ads will use oft-sung tunes such as “My Favorite Things,” “So Long, Farewell,” and “Do-Re-Mi” – all featuring the Brooks clan using products from Walmart. In one ad, the family will be shown cooking in the kitchen while a bag full of groceries purchased at Walmart is on display. The last spot of the evening will feature the parents trying to get the kids to sleep as they all use electronic devices available for purchase at Walmart. “So Long, Farewell,” will play as the scene unfolds.
NBC was not able to say whether the Walmart ads will run immediately after the broadcast cuts to an ad break – where they would have the most relevance – or deeper in the mix of promotions that run in each commercial interruption. Viewers will be told at the outset of the program that the live broadcast of “Sound of Music” is being presented by Walmart.
NBC created the ads internally, Lovinger said. Walmart showed interest in the program after NBC announced it would run a live broadcast of the play featuring singer Carrie Underwood in the lead role during its upfront presentation to advertisers last May. NBC actually went out and found the family after a four-day casting effort in September.
NBC and Walmart have teamed up previously on family-friendly fare: In 2010, the retailer and Procter & Gamble joined with NBC to create a TV movie, “Secrets of the Mountain,” that aimed to offer an alternative to what the advertisers viewed as an increase in risqué fare on the boob tube After “Mountain” ran in April, a similar effort, “The Jensen Project,” aired in July of that year. Broadcasts of the films featured both ads from each company as well as placements of their products and logos in the content itself.
The three-hour live broadcast of “The Sound of Music” is set to take place from a soundstage in Long Island, New York, and is an ambitious project for the Peacock in the weeks before Christmas. It is one of a number of live “spectaculars” being attempted by TV networks in an attempt to draw in the broad audiences that have become more difficult to find as viewers use new technology to watch the programming that interests them at times of their own choosing. Discovery Channel found success earlier this year with a live broadcast of aerialist Nik Wallenda walking a tightrope over a gorge in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon.
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The soundtrack for the live broadcast has been pre-recorded and the commercials afford the show, produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, a comfort zone of sorts for costume and set changes.
Walmart’s ads would be hard to use in any other program, but marketers have demonstrated an increasing interest in crafting commercials for very specific occasions, when the circumstances warrant. During ABC’s 2010 broadcast of the series finale of “Lost,” for example, Target ran commercials that played off popular elements from the enigmatic series.One Target spot made reference to the popular “smoke monster” that inhabited the island at the center of the drama, then reminded viewers a smoke detector at Target cost as little as $10.99.
Watch “The Making of The Sound of Music Live!” Below: