Moving beyond traditional Upfronts: Embracing flexible and new TV-buying solutions

Jun 24th, 2020

Written by Ampersand Marketing

With Newfronts underway this week, much attention is being paid to the battle for control between media companies, agencies and brands in the context of the traditional TV upfront business model.  Although not a new topic, this struggle has resurfaced recently and has gained increased urgency against the backdrop of a global health crisis and related economic uncertainty — leaving advertisers looking out at their business for the next four weeks, not the next four quarters.

Although it may be hard for us in the media business to accept this fact, the struggle for control does not sit between buyer and seller.  Rather, control sits with the consumer — the viewer.  This fact has grown out of the intersection between technology and content in the form of multi-billion dollar mergers of programmers and distributors: Comcast/NBCU, AT&T/WarnerMedia, Disney/Fox, among others.

This intersection of world class content, and leading digital/cloud-based architecture, puts the viewer in control of how, where and when to watch their favorite programs—whether it be in a live/linear or streaming/time-shifted environment, and whether it be on a large screen tv in the living room, or a laptop, a tablet or phone.

In days forever lost, brands placed a sign-post in primetime linear TV and expected audiences to find them.   But with the viewer now in control, it is increasingly unrealistic for brands to expect audiences to show up on their doorstep.   Instead, brands must develop new ways to find, engage and motivate audiences across time, screen, and location.   As a result, traditional business models that previously served the TV marketplace well must now give way to new models that recognize the central notion that the consumer is in control.

In speaking with advertisers and agencies alike, we find the need for new solutions centering around a few important themes:

  • Brand audiences: Moving beyond traditional age/gender definitions and embracing richer audience insights that leverage brand data, robust consumer data, and STB-based viewership insights.
  • Increased precision: The ability to deliver those richly defined brand audiences with greater accuracy — whether it be via contextual, screen, geo, or HH level targeting.
  • Greater accountability: Moving beyond the monolithic campaign measurement metrics of age/gender rating points, CPM’s and CPP’s, and designing more deterministic techniques to measure campaign efficiency and brand performance.
  • Increased flexibility: As the economy turns on across different parts of the country and across different categories of business at different times, it has highlighted the need for brands to have greater flexibility in the expression of their media investments.   This gets at the heart of the current conversation around the Upfront marketplace, a dynamic which has not been known for its fluidity.   Advertisers will increasingly require a more flexible/fluid manner to transact a growing portion of their TV investments to maximize their alignment with a dynamic business environment, as well as manage the complexity of a consumer-controlled media landscape.

The brand-building power of TV—regardless of how that content is consumed—remains unrivaled due to its unmatched scale and reach, quality and professionally-produced content, and an unequaled level of viewer engagement and emotional connection.   It is now time to enhance TV’s core value propositions with new solutions that further solidify the medium’s central role in building businesses.  The discussion around the traditional Upfront business model is simply a symptom of this larger opportunity.