Media Buyers Ride Out Uncertain Times By Proactively Looking At All The Options

Normally ... but this is not normally, as any media buyer knows. MediaPost's Outfront Forum on Monday took stock of where we are right now, mid-pandemic and looking at Q4.

Maureen Bosetti, Chief Investment Officer at Initiative, has been doing a lot of strategy sessions over the past several weeks. "We in assessment mode," she told Wayne Friedman, West Coast Editor, MediaPost, who moderated the panel discussion. "We're in that stage of gathering information to determine our clients' needs for the short term and the long term."

Thoughtful discussions seem to be all the rage. Gibbs Haljun, Managing Director, Media Investment at GroupM, agreed, adding that one of the benefits is that "it has allowed us to be more thoughtful and proactive versus reactionary." He has been developing more insights with clients, looking at options "as we look at what's going on in the broader landscape."

"We're making sure that when our clients are ready, we're ready," said Cara Lewis, EVP, Video Investment at Amplifi US, Dentsu Aegis Network. "We're strategizing about putting dollars in the right place. We want to continue to change how we invest and the timeline against it. It's important to be talking to clients and vendors on a daily basis."

"The reality is that some clients have not put 4Q yet as part of their 2020 planning," said Jason Kanefsky, Chief Investment Officer at Havas Media. "There's an advantage for clients who can get their 4Q money set. We're encouraging clients who can make a commitment to 2020 to leverage that against 2021 to get ready to go. There is no one size fits all."

As for Cathy Shaffner, Chief Investment Officer at Empower, she says it's important for clients to understand the connection between strategizing their own business and going to market." They are taking a slow, methodical approach, she said, "helping them understand that there is an opportunity to better connect business needs to how this market evolves."

On the issue of the cable calendar year, which the ANA has made a priority, Haljun noted that there is value from a trade organization standpoint. "Nobody forces anybody to buy at any one point in time," he said. "Lots of clients buy calendar year, broadcast year, scatter opportunistically. There's no vast rule."

Then there's the issue of sports or no sports this year. As Kanefsky said, there's still hope that the MLB can get going and make a season out of it but, if not, that does not bode well for the NFL. "The reality is there is no idea what the supply is going to look like," he said. "Hollywood is somewhat closed. We don't know what 2021 will be. It's a bit of a crapshoot. Clients who are looking for a specific audience or programming probably should wait."

In answer to an audience member's question about the Facebook ad boycott, Bosetti said they have a number of clients who are boycotting other social channels as well. "We want to make sure the platforms are promoting content aligned with brand responsibility."

"It's an extension of what we do on linear platforms," said Haljun. "There are issues with Fox News and CNN coverage."

As Shaffner said, "Clients want to know what they can do in any space to be good, socially responsible partners in linear, digital or social. There are key principles to follow."

Lewis called for the industry to make the space better by working together.

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