TurboTax Buys All Ads on NBC’s Sunday Night Prime Time

Instead of traditional ads, the company’s spots will be an on-going reality show

Last Updated: January 28, 2011 @ 3:09 PM

NBC viewers will get a treasure hunt while watching "National Treasure" Sunday night.

Instead of standard commercials, the network will air a "show within a show" — a reality show that advertises TurboTax's tax preparation software.

Between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., every national ad the network airs will look like a reality show. And, in fact, the 13 commercials, making up 35 minutes, will be a reality show hosted by Brooke Burns and starring Brandy Norwood, Lisa Rinna and Jeremy Roenick.

Called the "All Star Celebrity Treasure Hunt," the series of ads will feature teams headed by each celebrity visiting landmarks in Los Angeles and using GPS devices to find hidden items.

The "reality show" also will suggest that viewers log onto the NBC website, where they can win $25,000 — and learn more about TurboTax.

"More than half of our business is online, so part of the game is to drive awareness," said Seth Greenberg, vice president of global media and digital marketing for TurboTax.

TurboTax's advertising campaign centers around the notion that TurboTax is like a GPS system that guides taxpayers toward deductions. 

Seth Greenberg said NBC, whose merger with Comcast was approved on Jan. 18, pitched his company on the idea of buying all advertising on one night. The network and reality show producer Zoo, suggested a treasure hunt program.

TurboTax liked the idea.

"We then reached out to programming and ops to determine where was the best place to air it," said Barbara Blangiardi, Senior VP Creative Partnerships and Innovation at NBC Universal. "It really was serendipity that 'National Treasure' was running on that night."

Blangiardi's team already had been working with TurboTax on commercials that incorporated characters from NBC programs. Commercials that air during "The Biggest Loser," for instance, feature one of the trainers, then move to a more traditional TurboTax ad.

Greenberg said NBC "played their hand pretty smartly" in pitching the company, and said he expects his company will try more nontraditional advertising approaches in the future.