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NBC, AmEx 'Shine a Light' on Local Business

Integrated marketing campaign asks consumers to vote for their favorites

NBC Universal and American Express have struck a deal, more than a year in the works, on a new multimillion dollar, cross-platform, integrated marketing campaign designed to highlight the efforts of the nation's small businesses, a core client sector for AmEx.

The campaign is called "Shine a light," and calls for consumers across the country to nominate and vote for their favorite neighborhood businesses. The winning business will receive $100,000 in grant and marketing support from AmEx. And the consumers who nominate the three finalists will receive $3,000 AmEx gift cards.

The campaign, which kicked off this week, features a combination of custom spots written and produced by NBCU and starring the media company's talent; program integrations; and traditional spots that will run across participating platforms.

The overarching message: The efforts of local entrepreneurs represent a path out of the recession, said Nancy Smith, vp, global media, content and community at AmEx. "People across the country care about the local shop down the street and the restaurant downtown," she said. "The passion, dedication and resilience of these business owners are the key drivers of economic recovery, and through this program, we look forward to spotlighting the wonderful work that they do every day."

NBC, MSNBC, Bravo, USA and CNBC will air content designed to drive viewers to a microsite on NBCU's iVillage, where they can nominate and vote for outstanding small businesses and discuss the pros and cons of contenders in iVillage forums and also on social networks including Facebook, Twitter and Digg.

According to Mike Pilot, president, sales and marketing, NBCU, the media company and AmEx, along with the client's media shop, WPP's Mindshare, have been talking continuously for over a year about a broad integrated campaign. Parameters of a deal were reached about two months ago. The basic idea, he said, was to use the "reach of television and the credibility of its stars, shows and brands to create awareness of this campaign and then drive the audience to the digital environment," where consumers could step up engagement.

"It's a model for the future and it shows what can happen in a pretty tight time frame," Pilot said.

Custom spots provided by NBCU include two 60-second units starring Bravo Top Chef judge and restaurateur Tom Colicchio and Law & Order's S. Epatha Merkerson discussing their favorite neighborhood business and urging viewers to go online to talk about theirs. Feature segments about the AmEx campaign are being produced for other NBC properties including Today, First Look (a lifestyle and entertainment news program seen on NBC-owned stations) and Your Business on MSNBC. The Web sites of those networks will also feature content and ads supporting the campaign.

The nominations will be vetted by NBCU and AmEx and judged by talk-show host and entrepreneur Ellen DeGeneres, fashion designer and entrepreneur Diane von Furstenberg and MSNBC's small business expert and host J.J. Ramberg, to narrow the field to three finalists. The public will ultimately vote for the winning small business to be announced on Oct. 19.

— Nielsen Business Media