J&J Does Scatter, Upfront Deals Slower

After its long summer upfront holdout, Johnson & Johnson is stirring. The consumer-products company has bought some fourth-quarter network scatter ad time and registered some broadcast upfront budgets, according to media-buying executives.

J&J did some fourth-quarter scatter deals on CBS, but no upfront deals yet, say media execs. In contrast to the season-long upfront deals, scatter TV deals are made on a short-term, quarter-by-quarter or week-to-week basis.

Other executives say J&J has started to register upfront budgets with broadcast networks and syndicators. For cable networks, J&J does calendar-year deals. Those negotiations start later this fall.

One veteran syndication executive said it is expecting J&J to "register budgets any day now"--although the executive would be surprised if it had completed any deals.

Before the start of the upfront in June, J&J said it would delay its upfront planning and buying process until mid-August.

Other companies are sitting out the upfront process for different reasons: AOL and American Express said it would change their respective media strategies to buying scatter-only, not upfront deals. Coca-Cola and Bridgestone said both wanted to move from broadcast-year to calendar-year deals. For cable, many national advertisers--possibly around a 30 percent to 40 percent buy on a calendar-year basis.

A Johnson & Johnson spokesman didn't return phone calls by press time. Broadcast network spokespersons either had no comment or didn't return phone calls by press time.

J&J media executives told a few broadcast buyers and sellers that the company would be sitting out the traditional June upfront buying process--but added that they should call J&J if they near a sellout level of inventory. That didn't happen to virtually any TV network, since the market was a weak and slow affair and inventory was plentiful.

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