Upfront? We Don't Need No Stinking Digital Video Upfront
Call me a skeptic.
(I’m a reporter. We’re supposed to be skeptics).
But yeah, I’m skeptical of digital upfronts.
This week has brought two digital video announcements tied to the upfront. First, video ad technology company Adap.tv rolled out a media buying platform called the Adap.tv Upfront Marketplace, designed to reduce time and improve efficiency of media buying across screens so agencies can negotiate upfront digital buys with one tool. Adap.tv has landed Horizon Media as a user.
Adap.tv said it timed the launch of the platform to coincide with the general upfront buying period and to underscore the advantages of buying broadcast and digital together. The platform can help buyers pre-plan but also increase efficiency, said Toby Gabriner, President of Adap.tv. “Over the past few years, a section of the industry began to experience a change with the introduction of RTB, however, most media is still traded in an upfront or futures capacity. Adap.tv is bringing the same efficiencies of RTB buying and selling to the upfront or futures aspect of video advertising. In short, we are cutting out the many hours spent in spreadsheet purgatory.”
Then there’s Digitas, which has teamed up with Web giants AOL, Google/YouTube, Hulu, Microsoft and Yahoo to stage upfront presentations mirroring the TV upfronts from April 19 to May 2nd, just a few weeks before the TV upfront presentations. Digitas has done a fine job with its own New Fronts the last few years, which run more like highly polished conferences about digital video and Web series. Digitas said it’s expanding its New Front because of the pace of spending in online video, which grew 52% in 2011 and is tracking at 40% growth for 2012, eMarketer has said.
Sure, video is valuable. But I’ve seen numerous efforts over the years to stage new media upfronts and they haven’t worked. VOD networks such as Ripe TV and Music Choice angled for VOD upfronts several years ago to no avail, while broadband sites tried the same. The interest wasn’t there since digital buying is done year-round. TV upfronts exist because of the limited supply in broadcast ad time. The TV upfront season creates a false urgency so marketers lock in buys.
Digital isn’t supposed to be like TV. That’s what works about digital. You can buy year-round. You can be more efficient. You don’t need dog and pony shows. The upfront exists because TV ad time is scarce. Digital ad time isn’t scarce. It doesn’t need to be modeled after TV.
That’s not to say these efforts won’t succeed. They very well might. But if they succeed, they will succeed on their own merits and not because they tapped into the spring timing of TV buyers.