Farella: Upfront Money Is Up for Grabs
"I think the business has already turned, and I don't want us to miss it," Farella said, describing pressures from other media that are pushing TV price points closer together. "If you look at the difference in pricing between upfront and scatter, it's not like it used to be." As a result, TV dollars are up for grabs, Farella went on: "We're all seeing this sitting across the table from clients... If I were any one of you guys, I'd be thinking: 'As that money gets released from TV, because they're now ready to consider something else, can I catch it'--If I were a seller, I'd put my hand out really fast."
Jason Klein, president of the Newspaper National Network, confirmed that advertisers are more and more receptive to pitches outside TV: "Absolutely, we've found greater receptivity to broadening the media mix from clients who have not traditionally taken a look at newspapers." Overall, Klein said, "it doesn't happen at the buyer level--you have to find a strong agency... that is creative, and starts from the client, and thinks about the client and what their objectives are... In those cases we've had a great deal of success."
But there are a host of structural obstacles preventing planners and buyers from conducting this kind of media triage in a rational way, other panelists warned. Another print heavyweight, Steve Giannetti, group publisher of National Geographic Magazines, replied: "That's easier said than done. We realize that these dollars are becoming free, and they are being thrown up for a jump-ball--but the majority of agencies do not plan like that. So what you'll find is: 'Hey, that's not my job. This is the print budget that I have to deal with.'" Giannetti mused: "If we could get the thinking in sync with the client, the agency, and the vendor... then you could get some of those dollars much more readily spent to accomplish a sales strategy for the client."
Giannetti also noted that while agencies might demand integrated media plans, they rarely come prepared with such strategies themselves: "Planning is done in big vertical silos... If we're going to look at something bundled together, it can't just be the media together--it has to be a strategy that has all the elements as part of it... We're not finding that right now."
Meanwhile, Farella himself acknowledged that simple issues of scheduling complicate matters: "The problem with talking about television and other media with regard to an upfront is: the TV schedule continues to be off of everyone else's schedule... So right now we're doing our planning for television budgets, at a time when a lot of clients really haven't figured out what they're doing in 2007. So it doesn't go together, unfortunately."
Of course, there are also inherent differences in the media themselves--especially the quantities of inventory available for sale. Samantha Skey, senior vice president of strategic marketing for Alloy Media & Marketing--a firm specializing in "experiential" marketing--observed: "For events and experiential there's definitely a sense that it's an ever-lasting inventory--and that's fairly true for us." Thus media buyers may not approach Skey's inventory with the same urgency they do the TV upfronts.
But Skey was quick to note that things are changing, striking the same chord as the other panelists: "Some of the less traditional advertising that brands are doing becomes the centerpiece or focal point of the program, because they're catchier, more buzzworthy, maybe drive more word-of-mouth... So television--despite the upfronts--is often an ancillary platform."