Upfront: to be bold, honest or frank. At the front. In advance. While all of these definitions ring true, the word “upfront” holds a different meaning in the world of advertising and broadcasting. Television Upfront Season is a series of live, large-scale presentations and events that the major television networks put on to tout their new slate of programming to advertisers and press. It’s like Fashion Week, but for TV Geeks. This is also the time period when networks launch their ad sales for the upcoming broadcast year, introducing new rates and new sponsorship opportunities.
TV Upfronts began in the 1960’s as a way for networks to secure advertising dollars by getting advertisers excited about upcoming shows. In the 90’s and 2000’s upfront week became a week of lavish parties, celebrity elbow-knocking, and schmoozing with ad execs and marketers. In 2008, as Americans began spending more and more time online, the Digital Content Newfronts were created to showcase trends and announcements from digital publishers.
In the past decade, the evolving digital landscape has greatly impacted the experience of upfront week. Just a few years ago, most publishers would hold a Newfront and an Upfront to focus on the different aspects of their portfolio (digital vs traditional). Today, the lines are blurred as digitally streaming content moves the forefront of consumer media consumption.
This year, a major theme across all the major networks was the success of their respective streaming platforms. The newest, hottest shows will premiere on streaming services rather than their flagship network properties. This shift in where new programming is airing will greatly impact advertisers and the placements and sponsorships available to them. The networks will be challenged to provide more robust, engaging ad experiences on their streaming platforms – all the while, not intruding on the viewing experience for the consumer. Networks will be tasked with offering solutions for cross-device, cross-platform advertising packages. Advertisers and agencies in the outdoor recreation and attractions industry will need to keep track of how things are sold, how they are measured, and how that differs across publishers/networks. There isn’t just one way to buy streaming video placements anymore.
Another common thread this upfront season was the current WGA Writer’s Strike. The weight of this was felt across all of the presentations as executives addressed the crowd, instead of the on-air talent. Executives emphasized unscripted programming, sports, animation, and news programming.
- NBCU appears to be leading the way in developing a buying ecosystem for advertisers. Named OnePlatform, it allows advertisers to build their deals using data points while maintaining reach and scale. For example, you could advertise to moms rather than W25-54.
- WBD is taking advantage of their merger- the wealth of IP and expertise it brings- by launching innovative ad formats for Max, its streaming service. Taking inspiration from ad formats that have been successful in their traditional properties and parlaying them into streaming offers, like “Takeovers” and “brand blocks”. WBD is now using ComScore and VideoAmp data as currency in Upfront negotiations, along with Nielsen.
- Netflix made its first appearance at the Newfronts and touted their roughly 5 million global ad-tier subscribers. They also announced sponsorship opportunities for advertisers. For example, the ability to sponsor the presentation of a new series.
With the spotlight on streaming, it’s imperative for agencies to stay informed about the evolving opportunities available for outdoor recreation, attractions, and other brands. Each streaming service offers something a little different. It is our job to decide what the best fit is for our clients, where we can be first-to-market and where it make sense to wait it out.
As you move forward planning future media campaigns, work closely with your representatives across all platforms to ensure you’re informed about the latest capabilities. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Sometimes, agencies are learning right alongside the media reps. The advertising formats within streaming platforms are changing at a rapid pace. Managing expectations upfront with your clients about the evolving opportunities will build trust and allow you to be flexible when changes arise. Another trade secret is to set aside funds as reserves, which will allow you to jump on a new opportunity throughout the year. If Max’s platform suddenly creates a stellar sponsorship offering, you’re now set up to include it in your plan.
It’s our job to be upfront – at the front of this new advertising landscape, honest with our outdoor recreation and attraction partners, and open to educating ourselves!