As we enter upfronts primetime, here are some thoughts from the less-heard-from but critical-to-success community of ad-tech and other marketing partners who are in the proverbial trenches with marketers on a daily basis.
Chris Kelly, CEO, Upwave: There is a compelling reason why the currency discussion will be more prominent than ever at this year’s upfronts. We’re all collectively working to make it easier for advertisers to tap into the burgeoning CTV marketplace and eliminate friction as they attempt to target their key audiences. But this fixation on currency when we still need to do a better job of tying audience to business outcomes misses the forest for the trees. By all means, let’s solve currency, but do so fast, so we can focus on what really matters: ensuring that advertising is working for the advertisers and driving concrete and lasting business value.
Andrew Ward, president, Ampersand: One key question in upfront dynamics is whether addressable’s efficiency is worth its elevated cost in today’s market. As a buyer evaluates the cost of addressable, or any TV option, the focus should be on its ability to reach a well-defined target audience, not demographic delivery alone, to ensure optimum return on spend. Addressable TV excels at targeting. It is an efficient investment because it offers improved media delivery and better brand outcomes.
Another big factor in this year’s upfronts: Particularly in today’s economic landscape, incremental reach is now a need-to-have, not a nice-to-have. TV is highly effective at engaging audiences and achieving a wide reach, but campaigns can quickly hit a plateau where media stop garnering incremental viewers and start driving additional frequency against those who've already seen an ad. This year's television buys will reflect brands' increasing awareness that supplementing their national TV campaigns with simultaneous addressable campaigns can expand their reach to unexposed and under-exposed audiences.
Marketers will also be seeking a comprehensive approach to measure the effectiveness of their multiscreen TV investment. Many CMOs struggle with determining the portion of their target audience that is under- or over-exposed to their TV campaigns and identifying which tactics in their campaigns are having the most significant impact on brand outcomes. A clean room allows brands to understand their holistic media investment across multiple publishers and tactics in combination with any 1P, 2P or 3P data sets. This is done in a privacy-friendly manner without sharing any personally identifiable information, while still providing granularity for smarter strategic investments. If a brand has access to first-party data, it would be wise to take advantage of this opportunity to become a market leader in its industry.
Frans Vermeulen, vice president of market development, media and entertainment vertical, TransUnion: The complexity of having multiple new measurement tools is making everything harder and more expensive. As the industry approaches multi-currencies in a test-and-see approach, buyers and sellers will face intricate challenges and potential incremental cost across the supply chain. Disrupting a legacy method of measuring ad campaigns will add complexity to forecasting, yield management and understanding ROI. If campaigns are being sold and measured by more than one “currency provider” and those providers have different definitions of a household, that can get quite messy. During this buying season, it will be critical to see how these measurement currencies will educate media buyers and sellers about data and identity in their solutions to better understand consumers’ streaming experiences.
The economics of measurement are going to dramatically change how the industry addresses the challenges of more accurate measurement, especially in TV. We recently saw Nielsen earn back its MRC accreditation. Only time will tell, but it will be interesting to watch the difficulty some of these new entrants will face in getting their own services accredited by the MRC.
Michael Scott, head of sales, Samsung Ads: Media buying is now predominantly transacted programmatically, which certainly gives maximum flexibility to the buy side. Buyers are going to ask for more flexibility in media planning to evaluate spend and determine how they use advertising dollars on a case-by-case basis, preserving budgets to maximize their impact. Advertisers get the biggest impact when they focus on their audience by leveraging their first-party data to reach consumers accurately, when and where they’re watching content.
Christa Carone, president, Infillion Media: Conversations around the economy will continue to dominate, while the playing field gets more crowded. The proliferation of AVOD publishers competing for dollars during an economic slowdown — especially with the launches of the Netflix and Disney+ ad-supported tiers —screams for more impactful value propositions in pricing, innovative formats, targeting and attribution. No one ever wants to say that we’re operating in a commoditized marketplace. But the reality is that, without more innovation in how publishers connect with consumers, content can be viewed as a commodity.
This is the moment for broadcasters and publishers to underscore unique differentiators for advertisers that go beyond traditional audience metrics — things like better user interfaces, consumer opt-in ad experiences, seamless multi-screen functionality, voice-enabled interactive creative, frictionless AR shoppability —all delivered and measured through more robust, privacy-compliant data.
Stephani Estes, chief media officer, Goodway Group: Economic uncertainty is still looming over marketers this year as they traverse ever-changing consumer preferences and an increasingly fragmented video market. At a time when every dollar holds more weight, flexibility will be critically important at this year’s upfronts and could be the make-or-break determinant in successful negotiations.
In addition, with privacy changes and a cookie-less future ahead and advertisers already feeling the impact of the upended data landscape, this year’s upfronts will continue to shine a light on the crucial role of data. This year, we’ll see marketers investing in tools like data clean rooms, performance-based advertising, and contextual, audience-targeted solutions that fit their modern-day needs.
But the continued misalignment between the buy and sell sides is concerning. It creates some of our toughest challenges and hinders progress across the industry as we work within an increasingly complex media and technology landscape. By working together with a focus on solving client problems, we can win with viable solutions that fit the individual needs of both sides.