In The Imperfect Upfront Race, Time To Move To Front Of The Pack

Still mulling over the coming upfront, with the ever-evolving story of alternative currencies? Is it the same old story with some massive new spin?

Nope. Not yet.

Even with ever more scarce linear impressions that broadcast TV network owners are trying to hold on to, brand marketers are still focused on reach, so they will continue to pursue linear. And that means upfront wheeling and dealing.

Take a look at Super Bowl advertising-inventory rates at $7 million per 30-second commercial -- and the relative stability of NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball viewing. Sports programming in general looks to continue to be a factor going forward in moving the upfront.

Former GroupM prognosticator and media analyst Brian Wieser says new ad-tech companies -- specifically, The Trade Desk -- want you to believe CTV is coming big time and could usurp the entire upfront buying process, all moving to that just-in-time, short-term media-planning and -buying that digital media platforms continue to excel around. 



Wieser says brand marketers still love those big image campaigns along with the short-term, quick-hit marketing campaigns.

What would brand marketers do if they needed to, say, start or bulk up a brand campaign starting in a week or two? Whoah.

He writes: “Would it be better to wait until close to the campaign's launch date to see if desired inventory is available? Or would it be better to commit early? And if the marketer knows that other marketers are going to make their commitments around the same time, wouldn't it be better to do so before desired inventory has been secured by others?”

That is not possible. And even then, it is still difficult to get all the premium TV reach needed.

Sure, reach is getting harder to come by. But Wieser says not so fast: “Marketers will need to broaden their definitions of TV to include more online video, but most of the market is not there yet and unlikely to get there any time soon.”

He says Trade Desk's definition of CTV may not be what other executives believe it to be.

Trade Desk is counting on all those non-premium CTV platforms -- YouTube user-generated videos and other somewhat lesser-valued digital media-social video content.

That may not necessarily be where brand marketers might want to put their heavy resources for their major long-term media campaign plans.

No doubt alternative currencies are coming. But will they all be agreeable among all media sellers and media buyers? Hardly.

The upfront is far from perfect -- even as Nielsen-based currencies, including its national TV service, continue to be suspended.

Wieser reiterates what many have said regarding the TV network ad-selling process: “The U.S. upfront continues much as it has for so long not because it is good, necessarily, but because it is better than the alternative for most large brand owners.”

And the alternative for those marketers means media deals with no historical-based price protection going forward -- and worse. No upfront for some could really mean "on the down low'."

So, as they might say in the Tour de France, while cycling harder in the upfront race (and especially in a breakaway): "Get to the front... and work."

1 comment about "In The Imperfect Upfront Race, Time To Move To Front Of The Pack".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 22, 2023 at 10:57 a.m.

    Good one, Wayne. And Brian is right about the continued reliance on "linear TV" as the broad reach base for most national TV advertisers. However, as I have noted a number of times, the upfront is coming---has come, actually---to  CTV and we at Media Dynamics Inc expect a fair amount of upfront ad dollars will go to "premium" content buys on FAST and AVOD services. The amount will depend, in part, on how the buyers and their clients assess the CPM prospects for next season's "linear TV" scatter market. If it continues to be 50% above upfront CPMs then more ad dollars will be diverted to CTV. 

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