'The Real Glory' And The Upfront

The other day, while convalescing from a cold, I caught an early morning Turner Classic Movie broadcast of "The Real Glory," a black-and-white, action and adventure film set in 1906, in the Philippines. The plot: the American military decides to pull its soldiers out of the islands and in its place train the local populace to defend themselves against the fanatical guerillas, who have been waging a brutal resistance since American occupation. Headquarters assigns three men to accomplish the near-impossible task: Gary Cooper, a medical man of action, David Niven, a one-man army, and Broderick Crawford, a botanist. Gary gets the girl (the blind captain's daughter) and saves the day; David and Broderick perish, one defending the main gate until Gary arrives, and the other buried alive in an anthill beneath a new strain of orchid.

Maybe it was the dose of cough suppressant or expectorant I'm taking -- but outside of the obvious association to our present-day military engagement, my mind meandered to the media community's incessant preoccupation with the upfront. Yup, it's important. Don't want to mitigate its billions of dollars significance. But whether NBCU is in or officially formally out or will have individual sessions with key agency oligarchs; or the online community has partaken of the formality as a rite of passage; or ABC will introduce new programs throughout the year (I thought everyone does that anyway); or Turner Broadcasting will host a sumptuous affair; or an opening chime should commence and cease the activity... aren't we getting a little too preoccupied with the possible frenzy prior to feeding?

I remember when the kids' upfront consisted primarily of three broadcast networks (Saturday morning schedules) and a spot of syndication. At that time, a healthy portion of kids' inventory was purchased by Chicago's Leo Burnett. I think the agency represented Kellogg's and McDonald's, among others. As soon as the agency submitted kids' budgets, the national TV buyers in New York would get frantic calls from our New York salesmen: "Chicago's moving." Translation: if you don't make deals within the next 24 hours, your clients could be shut out of the kids' upfront. Experience taught us that sometimes that was true -- and other times, not so accurate.

Won't media agencies and marketers answer the clarion call when blasted, and respond accordingly? One hundred years later -- the 1906 "Real Glory" reference -- and we're still discussing the same scenarios.

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