Media executives increasingly have questions about business stories on the key selling periods of TV advertising. Execs are worried that stories on the upfront market may be too revealing of specific deal points, or just plain wrong.
Earlier this year, there were stories that said the biggest television advertiser in the land -- Procter & Gamble -- was considering renegotiating all its current media deals, in light of the steeply declining economy.
How did that go over? Not well among TV sellers, who rejected any attempts to redo deals. But it was probably worse among other big TV advertisers, who read the story and then called up their media agency complaining: "Get me the same thing as P&G: lower pricing!" The P&G chairman/CEO subsequently went on to clarify statements in light of the initial stories.
What is going on here has more to do with the uncertainty of the marketplace. In iffy markets like these, it's harder than ever to judge market activity -- as well as the usual Monday morning quarterbacking about whether the right TV upfront decisions were made.
Here's the deal: If business is being transacted -- some way, somehow, even if they are "holds," not "orders," in TV upfront advertising vernacular -- business journalists have the right to report on that business. Executives have the right to read and consider those stories -- or not.
What about those who don't adhere to these tenets? There's a simple value formula: for reporters, repeated inaccurate stories, wild assertions, and poor reporting will result in fewer readers, avoidance, and, ultimately, little influence.
A weakened economy scares everyone. No one wants to deal with screaming clients, lost accounts or, worse, the loss of jobs.
David Verklin, CEO of Canoe Ventures, hit the nail on the head when he said at the MediaPost Outfront event that media planning will only get more complicated in future years. No doubt, it'll also get tougher to read the tea leaves from Wall Street analysts, researchers, or business publications.
With the erosion of traditional TV viewing, fewer TV dollars being spent, new digital TV advertising options, clients demanding even more value -- as well as making more last-minute decisions -- it's clear there's pain in media planning and buying departments.
Maybe that's the real story of this upfront. And if reading that story doesn't seem right, look for something that does. On the other hand, if it seems right -- and you're pissed about it -- just do the right thing.