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Are You Ready For A Digital “Upfront?”
As the TV upfront season nears, cross-platform buying will play a major role for advertisers, columnist Rob Rasko believes.
As the TV heavyweights get ready to debut their fall lineup at the annual upfront presentations, much of the discussion will be centered on the so-called “digital upfront.”
But in reality, there is no single digital upfront. There are a splattering of indicators happening across the market that, when pieced together, make for the beginnings of a digital upfront. Let me explain further …
But first, some background on the history of TV upfronts: What’s now known as a modern-day television “upfront” began in 1962 as a tactic for ABC to create a showcase for American automakers. ABC moved its programming lineup to premiere of all its fall shows in a single week, enabling it to show off its upcoming programming to big advertisers and the press all at one time in late spring.
Advertisers who committed to media buys up front — before the season began — would get better deals and lock in the most desirable slots. Hence the term “upfront.”
Just five years later, ABC began offering ratings guarantees, providing marketers with an idea of the number of possible buyers that their commercials would reach. Prices would adjust based on the show’s performance.
The network’s ability to guarantee viewership created scarcity and allowed it to price its commercial time based on the viewability of its shows. Marketers gained confidence in television as an advertising channel, knowing they could buy audiences upfront.
But why are we talking about TV in a piece about a digital upfront?
Moving Toward The New Digital Order
Almost 10 years ago, “American Idol” was the No. 1 show and had a household audience rating of 30.6, according to Nielsen Ratings data. In 2014, the top show on television was “Monday Night Football,” accounting for a 21.5 rating in homes. So where did the other 9 percentage points go?
Without offering a definitive and arguable statement such as “they all went to digital,” I think it’s safe to say that viewers have scattered across various media, including cable and digital and OTT/VOD (over-the-top and video-on-demand) content.
If you’re a marketer or agency, your goal is still to reach your target share of the market, and having your target market scattered across various channels can make reaching your audience more difficult if you don’t know where or how to look.
Next month, the traditional TV upfront season will begin, and cross-platform buying will certainly play a major role in advertisers thinking about their media buying.
Examples Of A Digital Upfront
The following are three examples which can take us on a path to a digital upfront:
1. Find the Right Mix — While all upfront sales didn’t “go to digital,” clearly some portion did and must be accounted for when targeting an audience. Companies that have multiple properties, including television, digital and digital video, are finding themselves negotiating packages in a one-platform conversation. As I stated earlier, those 9 percentage points need to be made up for somehow.
A mix of cable, digital and TV will deliver the target amount of users needed. This is a sign of things to come.
2. Digital Content NewFronts — The emergence of the Digital Content Newfronts curated by the IAB and its partners is another indication that a digital upfront is coming to fruition.
The explosion of digital video companies sharing their content efforts and attracting advertisers feels a lot like a TV upfront, even though for high-revenue transactions it’s early in the game. It’s hard to argue that these NewFronts don’t create valuable partnerships between brands and native digital content.
3. Groupwide Terms and Conditions and the Viewability Debate — A few months ago, Conde Nast’s agreement to GroupM’s ad viewability standards marked a moment in the history of the digital viewability conversations.
When a publisher and an advertiser are negotiating — in good faith — a business model that will govern part of their relationship going forward, all you need is volume and price, and this again feels a lot like an upfront.
More and more agencies are crafting single video upfront terms and conditions which cross platforms, linking digital with broadcast and cable television.
Just like “Seinfeld” had its day among “must see” television shows, digital too will have content that’s an absolute “must buy.” When coupled with proven viewability of these ads, scarcity grows.
What do “Seinfeld” and premium digital real estate have in common? Proven desirable audiences that advertisers were seeking to reach and that were in limited supply.
The Required Tools To Make This Happen And VBR
If you’re going to transact based on viewability, you’ll need at least two things: a Viewability Base Rate (VBR) and a measurement vendor.
Simply put, VBR is a metric that will allow you to both internally and externally manage your transactions, forecasting, planning and negotiating.
The 614 Group has created two versions of a Viewability Vendor Study, a free tool to guide publishers when selecting the right viewability vendor for them. (Full disclosure: I work for The 614 Group.) In April, we will be releasing the third version of this report after spending the first part of this year doing the research.
With so much money at stake, getting the measurement right is critical, and having the right measurement vendor partner can make all the difference in the world.
Note: Stay tuned to Marketing Land for our news coverage of digital upfront events taking place this year.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.