Brands looking to capture the attention of press and influencers at CES should steal a page from the NBC Universal playbook. In a very innovative move, the media company built an “influencer lounge” inside their NBCU At CES booth at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show. Reporters, bloggers, and podcasters were all invited to visit NBC’s booth and use it as a platform to create their content from CES. The end result was one of the savviest social media activations at the popular trade show.
NBCU At CES: NBC Universal’s Innovative CES Strategy
The concept for NBC Universal’s NBCU At CES booth was the brainchild of NBCU executives Frank Radice and Mark Lukachewetz. Their strategy behind the idea was simple: the latest gadgets and electronics are nothing without great content.
It made a lot of sense. What good is the latest HDTV without great content to watch on it? With a massive library of both TV shows and movies, NBC Universal is one of the biggest media companies in history.
A second part of the execution involved NBCU’s news coverage at CES. After years of sending roaming reporters to cover CES, the NBC booth gave the news division a formal stage and platform to do their reports from the Consumer Electronics Show. The TODAY Show, CNBC, and NBC Nightly News are just some of the NBCU TV shows that will be broadcasting live from inside the NBCU booth.
NBC Universal’s First Blogger Lounge At CES
The idea for NBC Universal’s Influencer Lounge at CES started as a last-minute add on to their 2008 CES booth. Jon Accarrino, Manager Of Digital Marketing at NBC News, was invited to live blog for NBC Universal at CES. The only problem was he didn’t have anywhere to sit. So a small riser with a monitor and chair was added to NBC’s 2008 NBCU At CES booth.
“When Frank Radice invited me to live blog at CES, it was too late to build a blogger lounge or a separate area for social media influencers and podcasters,” Accarrino said. “In 2008, I don’t think most people really understood what the vision for the lounge was until the show started. But the press and attention that NBC Universal earned from their little blogger platform made sure that things would be bigger in 2009.”
A year later Accarrino was back and had a whole area of the NBCU AT CES booth dedicated to bloggers, reporters, and social media influencers.
NBC Talent Share Their CES Stage With Video Podcasters
Another important area of NBC Universal’s NBCU At CES booth was the main video stage. Multiple NBC programs including CNBC and the TODAY Show used the stage to broadcast live reports from the floor at CES. And when the stage wasn’t being used for TV broadcasts, Accarrinio kept the seats warm with Video Podcasters.
“It’s a great opportunity for all of us,” added Accarrino, who orchestrated the activation. “Video podcasters get access to a beautiful TV quality set to record their episodes. And in turn, NBC Universal and Sharp get lots of organic branding and mentions in their content.”
Notable names in the tech and podcasting community including Darren Kitchen (Hak5), Todd Cochrane (Geek News), Kelly Sutton (Hack College), and Patrick Norton and Veronica Belmont (Tekzilla) all recoded episodes of their podcasts on NBC’s CES stage.
Was Influencer Participation “Pay To Play” At The NBCU Booth?
Was gaining access to the Influencer Lounge or the broadcast stage at the NBCU At CES booth a “pay to play” ask by NBC Universal? According to the manager of the lounge, Jon Accarrino, no, not at all.
“Of course not everyone who participated in the NBCU Influencer Lounge created content about what NBC Universal was doing at CES. It was never a condition or an ask on our part,” Accarrino said via email. “We just concentrated on creating a great experience for our guests and if they wanted to mention us, then that came naturally. Many Influencer Lounge participants mentioned that they wrote their article from the NBCU At CES booth, used our branded backgrounds as backdrops, or posted a message on their social media thanking us. And if they didn’t, that was fine too.”
Finding The Right Way To Connect With Influencers
Most brands still struggle to find ways to organically capture the attention of influencers, bloggers, and podcasters. Bill Gates even paid millions of dollars to convince bloggers to write nice things about the Zune and not just the iPod (it didn’t work).
NBC Universal is really onto something special here. We hope to see this Influencer Lounge concept continue and grow by other brands at CES in the future.
Editor’s Note: Two people quoted in this article, Jon Accarrino, and Frank Radice, have contributed content to this blog. Neither one of them had any editorial influence over this report.