We Don't Need Upfront To Vanish -- Just To Change

  • by , Featured Contributor, March 26, 2020
The global health crisis has wreaked havoc on the upfronts (including cancellation of networks’ live events), decimated live sports programming, created massive uncertainty around fall schedules -- and is causing everyone to pause and ask the existential questions about whether or not the upfront should even survive into the future.

The health and safety of our families, colleagues, friends and global fellow citizens are, and should be, paramount in all our minds and actions. However, this is also the time to ponder, plan and create the new normal for the future. The ad and media industry will survive this crisis, but the way it will operate in future is now in our hands. With that in mind, here are some of the modifications that have been proposed in the past:

Separate audience-based upfronts. For years, legendary media executive and researcher Ed Papazian has been calling for the ufront to be bifurcated, with one phase for content based commitments -- Super Bowl, prime-time shows, etc -- and a second phase for audience-based commitments, where advertisers and networks agree on audience-based buys based on granular segmentations much deeper than today’s sex/age demos. A key issue here, as Ed has warned us, is to permit marketers the flexibility to commit at the corporate level and not be forced to buy and commit only at the individual brand level.



Universal, crossplatform currencies like CFlight. Transacting primarily on broad sex/age demos and TV currencies different from digital currencies is problematic. Is this the time to have all the major networks and TV buyers transact on broader, more universal currencies than just the C3, C7 and Cn, where linear TV, addressable TV, OTT, CTV and digital video can all be bought together and made fungible? NBCU’s Linda Yaccarino has been a real pioneer here with CFlight; maybe it’s time for more of the market to follow her. 

Secondary promises. Beyond universal currencies, is this the time that TV network sellers will step up on promises to deliver not just tighter audience targets, but deliver guaranteed results like weekly reach? Or guarantee bottom-of-the-funnel business outcomes like leads, conversions or sales? I know, most sellers see that as the job of the advertiser and agency. But it’s clear  marketers will pay massive premiums if they can get these predictably (something DR TV can’t do) using today's TV platforms and optimization system, which  can deliver on that for networks and marketers alike.

Cancel the upfront. Many have called for this for years. However, they lose sight of the fact that demand for premium linear TV and video ad units exceeds demand, and great content needs advance planning, investment and production. Thus, the sale of large portions of high-value ad units to brands willing to commit well in advance to have better pricing, more share of voice, or both, will continue to be necessary. I don’t think that the upfront should -- or will -- go away.

What about you? What you do think? Would you change the upfront? Would you cancel it?

Next story loading loading..