Home On TV & Video 2018 Upfronts: The Real Celebrity Is You

2018 Upfronts: The Real Celebrity Is You


On TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Brienna Pinnow, co-founder at Blinc Digital Group.

Even with fragmented viewership across screens and devices, TV’s brand-safe, fraud-free storytelling environment faces scarcity – and advertisers know it.

As long as demand is high and supply is low, the upfronts are fundamental to the US advertising ecosystem. Programmers are putting a fresh twist on this traditional event, locking in more deals at higher rates and attracting advertisers across every vertical by focusing on you.

Not you as a marketing professional, necessarily, but you as a unique individual and everyday consumer. Programmers are hoping to connect brands and agencies with you across screens in meaningful and authentic ways.

You are unique

Data is the bedrock of any consumer-focused marketing approach. And the TV industry appears to be excited or even, dare I say, bullish to offer loyal advertisers access to more robust audience data than simply age and gender panel-based ratings.

“We are in a new era of media, and it’s time to retire the Nielsen television metric. … The time is now – this upfront – for advertisers to change how they think about the value of their marketing and invest in audience targeting,” Turner President David Levy said, echoing the industry’s sentiments at this year’s upfront presentation.

By putting consumers – including each individual’s unique qualities, from their marital status to their shopping habits – at the center of a brand’s TV planning, targeting and measurement approach, everyone wins. Consumers actually see messages and offers that matter to them, advertisers maximize their efficiency and programmers’ inventory is more effective for clients.

You deserve a quality experience

For years, the headlines have spelled doom and gloom for the TV industry as the Facebook and Google duopoly promised advertisers the allure of pricing, platforms and precise targeting that TV couldn’t provide. Advertisers saw success, but quietly pushed under the rug the real and raw issues, including fraud, viewability, fake news and data scandals.


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Mark Zuckerberg’s Senate hearing may have made those in the data and digital worlds quite uncomfortable – especially given lawmakers’ lack of industry understanding – but it could also be considered a blessing in disguise for the TV industry.

Instead of heading into the 2018 upfronts on the defensive, advocating for a channel that others had marginalized as slow, traditional or rudimentary in its targeting and measurement capabilities, TV execs blazed in with their swagger back. They remembered – and touted – their big advantages over the digital guys.

“Your brand always runs next to premium content,” Linda Yaccarino, head of NBCU’s ad sales group, evangelized at this year’s event. “Other brands can’t guarantee that.”

That means they are delivering consumers an enjoyable, lean-back experience void of spam, trolls and controversial content – a big win for both consumers and brands.

Your time is valuable

For the first time in recent history, it appears that TV networks, such as NBC and Fox, are doing the unthinkable: vowing to decrease their ad load.

From a consumer perspective, this means we should – in theory – be viewing fewer messages. And with fewer brands shouting into the void, the ads running should – in theory – also be able to stand out from the crowd. Fueled by better data and supported by the principles of supply and demand, the programmers should – in theory – be able to come out ahead by charging a premium for the spots remaining.

With all of this “in theory” talk during the 2018 upfronts, it will be exciting to see the impact of this strategic move and how other broadcast and cable networks plan to implement a reduced ad load strategy.

But the trend in maximizing attention doesn’t stop there. For example, the six-second TV ad spot continues its rise. And folks like P&G’s Marc Pritchard are striking deals with ABC’s “Black-ish” and other programs to organically integrate brand messaging into the show’s plotline and dialogue.

With consumers’ attention as the most valuable commodity in the TV advertising ecosystem, it’s no surprise that the upfronts featured creative ideas to connect with them across screens.

Your brand experience matters to us

For years, measurement offered for TV advertising campaigns has been less than scientific. But at this year’s upfronts, both sides of the table – programmers and advertisers – appeared to be more open and willing to work with a number of vendors, from set-top box data providers to measurement companies, to make better reporting a reality.

By taking a privacy-compliant approach to understanding how campaigns are impacting people’s actions, brands can better understand the customer journey across channels.

I wish I could fast-forward (DVR pun intended) to next year’s upfronts and see if 2018 really turns out to be the “year of measurement.” Hopefully we will hear about the real-world impact of TV campaigns through better and more robust reports that go beyond ratings.

Will ‘you’ be renewed for another season?

The 2018 upfronts was an optimistic event. Sure, some veterans may be a little jaded by the upfronts’ pomp and circumstance, but overall, TV is turning a corner.

This year, more advertisers are investing in audience-based buying tactics such as data-driven linear plans, addressable TV campaigns and closed-loop sales measurement – to the tune of more than $1 billion.

And within the next 12 to 24 months, we should see at least 5% of this $70 billion-plus industry move to more audience-based buys – the ones focused on you. As a marketer passionate about using data and technology to treat individuals like real people, I believe the 2018 upfronts have really turned a people-based corner, and the data-driven foundation has been laid for many upfronts to come.

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