“The issue of scarcity, which is why the upfronts have been so successful, will fundamentally change,” Barry Lowenthal, president of MDC's The Media Kitchen, predicted during a panel at MediaPost's annual Outfront Conference in New York Wednesday.
The panel, which focused on how changes manifesting now could impact the way advertisers and agencies buy upfront five years from now, painted a portrait of an ever-increasing supply of video programming content that would reduce the need for media buyers to hedge inventory for fear of being closed out of a marketplace for all but the most premium -- particularly live event programming -- the executives predicted.
Lowenthal was among the execs who said he was personally “overwhelmed” by the volume of content being trotted out at the digital Newfronts during the past week, noting: “I have no idea how consumers will make sense of it. I can’t make sense of it. One might think the only way to make sense of this is to put it all in a programmatic world, but I can't imagine it happening immediately.”
That's exactly what other executives -- especially Kristi Argyilan, president-North America at Interpublic's Mediabrands’ Magna Global unit -- said her agency is putting in place now. She said Magna has already built the data framework for processing much of its buying programmatically, and is now focused on encouraging suppliers to follow in that direction, where it makes sense for them.
“There is absolutely some primo content that we want to make sure we snatch, or even develop with our partners,” she said, adding, however, that it is likely to be a relatively small share relative to the amount of inventory agencies have historically purchased upfront in the past.
“At that point, we don’t need an upfront. [Or] the upfront shrinks dramatically,” she said, adding: “Everything else has the potential to be executed more through an automated platform and can be done absolutely through audience data. And that’s what we’re pushing.”
“Our world is hopefully a little bit of what the world will become,” said Brian Gleason, managing director-North America at GroupM trading desk Xaxis, adding that it's unlikely that buyers will be forced to procure inventory during a seasonal marketplace the way they do now in the upfront, and that markets will move increasingly real-time.
Perhaps the biggest shift underscored by the panelists was the one underscored by Adam Kasper, chief media officer at Havas Media.
“I think we are going to see a move away from a programming upfront to an audience upfront,” he suggested, noting that enhancements in the kind of audience data advertisers and agencies are developing will enable them to target all forms of programming based on the audiences they want to reach instead of using the content as a proxy for reaching them.
“This will evolve and what we will see is individual audiences that are more valuable to advertisers and I think we will see some of the bigger publishers start to realize that,” Kasper explained, adding: “I think it starts to migrate towards where you have upfronts based on a completely different set of parameters and standards than what we are doing right now -- more around the audience than the programming.”