Commentary

Is Programmatic Causing A NewFronts Rethink?

AOL, now a unit of Verizon, has just announced its NewFronts presentation will be closed to the masses. That’s quite a reversal from just a year ago, when it took over South Street Seaport and stopped traffic thereabouts, and Snoop Dogg and Demi Lovato rocked out.

“We've always enjoyed innovating around the Newfronts -- first as a founding partner and then with a first of its kind experiential Newfront in 2016,” an AOL statement reads. “We value our deep relationship with the IAB and look forward to our continued work together. This year, AOL/VZ has made a deliberate shift in strategy to hosting closed door client meetings and will not be hosting media.”

AOL now joins Studio71, BuzzFeed and Fullscreen as online entities rethinking their IAB presence. Yahoo, most of which is also now owned by Verizon, ducked out of NewFronts this year, too, and it started to pull back last year when it was in the process of disintegrating.

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Like some of others I’ve just listed, Yahoo will hold smaller, regional get-togethers for buyers. Studio71 touts a “virtual”presentation it will present instead of having a live presence.

Unlike others, AOL and Yahoo will soon be known as Oath, one of less great monikers out there but better than Yahoo, actually.

The no-shows (or something like it)  still leaves a big bunch of presenters, including include YouTube, Twitter, Hulu, AwesomenessTV, Bloomberg Media, BBC, Defy Media, DigitasLBi, Disney Media-Maker Studios, Group Nine Media, Refinery29, Astronauts Wanted, Hearst Digital Media, the New York Times, Popsugar, Conde Nast, Time Inc., Turner, Vice Media, and Warner Bros. and more. So the shows will go on.

But why the re-think of NewFronts at the very time streaming video seems to be hitting its stride?  

The most provocative hypothesis I’ve seen comes from Gregg Jarboe on the TubularInsights site, who wrote recently that companies pulling back from NewFronts may be realizing that the overwhelming majority of the ads they get come from programmatic machines, not the flesh-and-blood types grabbing the gift bags.

The trend toward using artificial intelligence to do work we once did mostly seems like a problem affecting manufacturing. Not so, Jarboe suggests, citing a report from the outgoing Obama Administration that said up to 47% of all American jobs are at risk in the next couple decades.  

He says that when the big advertisers started screaming about their ads showing up next to the wrong kind or content, they blamed YouTube not ad buyers.  That seems odd.

“Why aren’t media buyers even partially to blame for a number of cases where brands’ ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values?” Jarboe asked. “Because maybe they aren’t responsible for buying that much media on YouTube anymore.”

By extension, that’s what is happening everywhere. Jarboe checked help wanted ads on Indeed for the media buying jobs in the New York area. He found 117 listings, with an average salary of just over $55,000.  He checked ads for programmatic jobs and found 369 ads, offering salaries ranging from $50,000 to $105,000.  

“So, there are still lots of media buyer jobs in the Big Apple,” he wrote, “but there are even more – and better-paying – jobs for those with the new skills to manage programmatic buying software.”

Maybe that means something.

pj@mediapost.com

 
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