Did you watch Hairspray Live on NBC last night? If you did, you were treated to three perfect examples of how a brand can break free of being conventional and combat ad blindness with creative content. It’s been less than 24 hours and many people who watched can easily tell you that Oreo Cookies, Reddi-wip and Toyota had authentic sixties-era live commercials during the broadcast, but have no recall of any other ads that ran between breaks.  NBC definitely broke the norms in advertising and heightened the viewer experience with their brand partnerships. You might call these ads a cousin to native advertising. And they worked perfectly.

For example, Reddi-wip, created a modern-day version of the traveling milkman for branded content. During a commercial break (inspired by Reddi-wip’s history of being delivered door-to-door by milkmen), the character took viewers behind-the-scenes of the Hairspray Live set, with a musical number choreographed by members of the musical’s creative team, incorporating Reddi-wip through joyful interactions with the crew and ensemble members. If you were watching (or catch a replay) – you’ll also see that this character has a cameo during one of the scenes.  Subtle, but effective.

Oreo’s segment took the form of a product endorsement by the fictional host, “Corny Collins” played by Derek Hough. And Toyota’s took a tongue-in-cheek approach and used both a vintage vehicle of the era alongside the current model.

The takeaway?  Regardless of medium, marketers need to break the norms of conventional advertising they’ve gotten used to if they want to stand out.  Chuck Moran, VP of RhythmOne wrote a blog entry recently that discusses this further. Similarly, programmatic platforms need to push the boundaries of both creative and their technology. As stated in our most recent report produced with Digiday, Moving Beyond Programmatic Display, “there is a call for going beyond display, but it can’t stop there. A ‘winning’ programmatic platform is going to be one that adds value to advertiser campaigns by giving them more options programmatically—a one-stop shop to serve all campaign goals and the creative to back it up.”