A View from the Upfront/Newfront

As we come out of the Upfront/Newfront season, now is the time to take stock of what is changing in the media world – especially since almost everything is changing. To get a 360° view, we spoke with senior executives who sit on all sides of the process: buyers, advertisers, networks, content providers and agencies. Some had attended all major upfronts, and some had cherry picked based upon their circumstance and need. Here is what they told us and what it may mean for you.

1) RISK VS. REWARDS. Advertisers yearn for innovative solutions more than ever. They hear about new developments such as virtual reality becoming more accessible and many want to be on the frontline to embrace it– especially those who represent brands whose loyalists expect this kind of early adoption. That said, the amount of innovation in the marketplace thus far is not nearly as robust as the appetite for it. Often this is due to logistical hurdles: what it takes to accomplish something truly new and different can be much harder than anticipated. Advertisers also hesitate when hypothetical possibilities “get real” and it is time to commit, backing off the risk due to not knowing what the payoff will be. In other words, it is all fine and good to be a pioneer when there are no other good alternatives. In the media world today, when things get risky, the tried and true—”spots and dots”–are still winning the day since they feel like the safer bet…despite a professed appetite for the new and different.

2) GROWING PAINS. As media efforts branch into new territories, all parties struggle with the unforeseen and with new element creation – most notably in digital production. It is no longer enough to create scrappy content for digital (though still appropriate in some cases), yet it is quite unclear who should pay for this new level of production. Our participants in this area varied immensely in terms of who pays, split among the content providers, the networks, the advertisers, or some combination of these. As you might guess, everyone who is paying currently would like to shift this cost elsewhere.

3) MULTI IS A MUST. One of the most notable shifts since last year is the frequency with which advertisers now specify multi-platform in their requests. They have grown much more savvy in this respect and are most often content providers themselves. They expect and overtly ask those creating content and partnerships for and with them to be ready to do so across all screens. Relevant to this ask, Time Inc. was notable for stepping far outside of its traditional box by showcasing all its content digitally across all screens. Our sources tell us there was not a single printed item in the building.

4) DATA IS KING. Certain media companies are distinguishing themselves as frontrunners in the data mining space. These pioneers analyze their data and overlay it with content consumption in order to enable increasingly more precise targeting. We say increasingly because this is not just a static data marriage but rather one of continual optimization. Fox and NBC Universal speak most specifically about these capabilities. If this all sounds a bit conceptual to you, you are not alone: some advertisers feel this way too, as no one in this group could explain exactly how it works and just how impactful it can be. That said, everyone is talking about it and everyone is interested. As online targeting has become incredibly precise and productive, buyers and advertisers are looking for similar capabilities in broadcast media. Many bet that big data is the answer.

5) ALL ABOUT MEOur last learning illustrates the truism that everything changes but in some ways, nothing changes. Advertisers continue to yearn for a tailored offering that will effectively reach their specific audiences to move product. Media companies continue to tout content and encourage advertisers to place their bets, but those spending the money are skeptical. Said another way, advertisers are weary of feeling it is all about the content when they want it to be all about them. Media offerings that meet this need with credibility will win. Youtube, now 10 years old, is offering “micro audiences” that have grown in size and stature and get a lot closer to fulfilling advertisers’ desires. Networks say the content is lacking, and while this may be true, some advertisers will live with that if they can get the right audience reach to meet their particular needs.

Methodology: Noetic Consultants conducted 15 interviews with senior buyers, advertisers, networks, content providers and agencies between May 18, 2015 and June 1, 2015.

Nancie Head Shot-Edit 200x300Noetic is a marketing consultancy specializing in brand strategy, research & training.

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