After The NewFronts: Think Regional, Think Programmatic

We wrapped up the 2015 Digital Content NewFronts last month, but it’s clear that the real work in selling digital video is just beginning. As an advisor to agencies and brands, my company looks at the NewFronts (now a yearly confab showcasing video offerings from digital publishers) as an opportunity to be wowed so we can go back to our clients to say ‘let’s try something new.’

After viewing some of this year’s presentations, I’m starting to think that the publishers should focus less on the ‘newness’ of their content and more on making it easier to actually buy ads within that content.

The NewFronts were created to mimic the Upfront process where TV networks showcase upcoming programming to secure commitments from major national advertisers. Here is what I observed at the events: digital companies trying to look like traditional TV networks while TV companies tried to look more digital. If the goal of the NewFronts is to provide advertisers of all stripes with exciting, differentiated offerings that will attract the audiences they seek -- 2015 missed the mark.

For digital video to achieve its promise, we need to look to the past. The expansion of every digital channel has been largely assisted by the ad spend of regional, independent marketers. These are the brands that are seeking ways to stand out from behemoth national advertisers by pushing the forefront of what’s new, utilizing methods that deliver a clear ROI, and choosing highly targeted tactics.

Of course, as an industry, we’re still counting on national brands to commit a healthy portion of budget to digital. However, history tells us that the regional marketer will move more quickly to shift larger portions of ad spend to new channels, particularly digital video.

If our shared goal is more ad dollars moving to digital video, here is what needs to happen:

1)      Increase viewership – digital video wants to rival traditional TV programming so it needs to rival how much marketing a TV network spends to make a hit show. More follow-through is needed to build audiences online, and publishers need to be committed to marketing to make their shows a success.

2)      More programmatic buying opportunities – ad buyers who want digital media take a data driven approach. They want to use data from publishers and third parties for finding targeted audiences that watch digital video. Eventually, these marketers will have a better command of their first-party data and will want to leverage it for buying. Publishers need to make it easier to buy their inventory in programmatic environments and systems.

3)      Tailor ad offerings to appeal to local and regional marketers – I don’t mean mom and pop shops. I mean large regional brands as well as national brands marketing to a regional audience. Too much of the NewFronts is about gaining the attention for big national ad budgets whose decision makers can commit roughly a million dollar or more in a year. It’s easier to gain commitments from local and regional brands that can spend modestly to find target customers on a local/regional level.

The good news for any publisher with digital video is that digital selling season is 12 months and 24/7 (yes, somewhat sad, but we are an industry of hustlers). Digital publishers aren’t missing out on big negotiations this summer. Nevertheless, now is when the real work begins.

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