Early National TV Ad Reading: Bigger Upfront Results?

March’s TV lambs and lions had their day. Standard Media Index says broadcast TV networks witnessed an eye-popping 48% increase in March’s near-term scatter national TV dollars, versus the same month a year ago. During the same month, national cable TV was down 14%.

And one bellwether advertising category -- automotive -- seems to be signaling good stuff as well.  SMI says auto ad budgets increased 8% in March to hit 1.66 million units, the highest monthly rate in almost 10 years.

Sure, it’s just one month. But this comes just weeks before the upfront market is set to begin.

What does this tell us? That there is strong credence that early second-quarter results could go in the same direction, with the second quarter long being a good barometer of future upfront TV health.

SMI data comes from the 70% of the bookings of all U.S. national media agency spending -- five of six major media companies and independents.



Meanwhile, media agency and marketing executives seem more irritated than ever about digital’s ad-blocking, transparency, fraud, and viewability issues. One possible result? That money should shift back from digital to traditional TV upfront places.

But many analysts still seem cautious about this prediction  -- and perhaps this is prudent. Because while scatter national TV volumes are high --at least for broadcast networks at present -- digital isn’t going away.

The same SMI report noted that overall digital media spend continues strong -- up 16% for March and 20% higher for the first quarter overall. Perhaps even more key is that, despite all its issues, broad-based digital video gained 35% dollar volume in March and 35% in the first quarter.

We now have a more complex story -- not an either/or situation.  Results also include the performance of traditional TV networks' digital platforms, up 13% in March and 14% for the first quarter.

So, while the forecast for the traditional TV upfront looks bright, so too could be picture for  digital media. The March lamb or lion approach may not be applicable; find a happy middle ground.

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