How to Fix The Digital NewFronts
In the continued quest for a bigger share of television ad budgets, digital media companies put a lot of time and effort into this year’s Digital Content NewFronts.
With all the industry momentum seen in significant year-over-year growth in digital video buying, the NewFronts stand for much more than just another industry event. Digital media platforms now look forward to making long lasting impressions in the weeks to come. So, one would hope that the events could demonstrate the market’s maturity and continue to shape how digital video will help brands meet their objectives.
While a step in the right direction, this year’s NewFronts fell short of this desired outcome. Fortunately, time is on our side to work toward fixing the model.
Showcase the industry's value. The NewFronts should serve as an opportunity for digital publishers to shine a spotlight on the industry’s progress in technology, consumer understanding, and programming concepts. But instead, time was spent raffling off prizes and focusing on late night “celebration” with little demonstration of video innovation.
This year’s NewFronts lacked engaging information, and from my experience, served as a festival for a lot of sizzle without the appropriate amount of steak. And unfortunately, during all of the “celebration,” the opportunity to discuss the issues affecting the marketplace was lost. While one could argue that TV’s traditional Upfronts are no different, TV has the benefit of established credibility given it has repeatedly shown to be effective branding and communication channel.
Stop the negative selling. It’s probably time for digital to move away from disparaging TV as a means of garnering TV dollars. Downplaying the value of TV advertising lacks sensibility, because while digital is commanding an increasing share of ad dollars, the growth is not attributable to a decrease in TV spend, which continues to rise. Even with TV spending topping $70 billion for the first time last year, many of the presentations at the NewFronts tried to position digital as a stronger alternative to TV. If the thought leaders who are supposed to be pushing this industry segment forward are actively talking about how TV is not measurable, they’ll continue to wait for “TV-like” dollars.
Focus on measurement. A compelling reason that money is not moving from TV to digital is because there’s not a single common data thread merging all the screens: TV, online video, and mobile video. This common data thread should be the focus of every digital media company and corresponding NewFront presentation going forward, until it gets sorted out. Rather than promote a David and Goliath tale, it would be more beneficial to talk about how we can work together to make video advertising measurement uniform and understandable, whether it’s on one screen or across all three.
While the NewFronts are designed to pique advertiser interest in new and unique content offerings, as an industry we cannot realistically ask marketers to devote millions of dollars to a platform without establishing meaningful success benchmarks. And that does not even touch on advertisers’ continued concerns about finding good content that actually delivers real scale, which is well-illustrated by the fact that two properties, Hulu and YouTube, account for about half of the $1.8 billion video ad market.
If digital properties want to change how advertisers perceive digital video, we need to bring more sophisticated thinking and thoughtful selling into the space. We’re not trying to beat TV at its own game; we’re trying to prove that digital video is a viable platform to drives brand awareness and recall, not just generate clicks. We can save the NewFronts by taking more time to educate the market, highlighting technological advancements, and ultimately narrowing the measurement gap that is impeding the growth of digital video.