The television “upfront,” a network’s showcase event to promote and sell advertising, is a near 60-year-old tradition. These sometimes star-studded affairs give advertisers a chance to preview the programming of the upcoming season and, for some advertisers, to buy airtime early. Now, with more and more consumers turning to online programming for their entertainment, the upfront is evolving to keep pace with the digital era.
Traditionally, a television upfront is fairly elaborate. A national television network holds a press event to announce their upcoming schedules. Coinciding with the end of sweeps in May, the event could feature a few of the stars of returning or new programs, food, maybe a popular band, as well as promotional clips of content.
The real audience of an upfront is advertisers and marketers. The show is for them. They are there to decide how they should recommend their clients’ upcoming ad spend. Marketers also determine how much advertising time, if any, they might buy “up front,” before the new season gets started and other players start purchasing time. The bulk of a television season’s advertising can be wrapped up and decided before the season even launches.
Change is in the air
While many of today’s upfronts remain similar in nature to those described above, change is definitely in the air. New digital media is spurring alterations to the tried and true format.
One industry giant is playing the game in a new way. Viacom won’t be hosting its own upfront, but has been hosting private dinners with high-end advertisers and marketers. It’s not their only outreach, but it shows how the broadcast landscape is exploring formats to showcase its inventory.
AT&T, a nontraditional upfront media participant, is planning to host a breakfast meeting during upfront week this year in May. Company executives want to help marketers learn to reach their target audiences and measure TV viewing and felt participation would be a fit.
In the world of digital programming, programming seasons have become virtually nonexistent. At almost any time throughout the year, there’s now bound to be new programming. . .and ad inventory that comes with it. As a result, the upfront season now extends from early March to the end of May and then picks back up generally in the fall (newfronts*).
Digital media companies, and companies with digital inventory, are now hosting intimate, unique events and outings to court potential advertisers. More media moguls are arranging one-on-one visits with their best advertising clients to offer them the season’s pitch personally or arranging special client outings or dinners to unveil lineup and ad opportunities.
Dubbed “newfronts,”* these new digital “upfront” events cater to the online crowd, often with a conference component. They include more diverse media presenting, but the net effect is the same. The media creators are introducing their product to potential advertisers, often more specific niche advertisers and marketers.
Digital Content NewFronts 2019, the annual upfront for digital media from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, runs April 29 to May 3 in New York City. Digital TV and movie provider Hulu will be there, as will social media giant Twitter. Both of those are natural choices, but the big companies are going to be making presentations there as well. The New York Times, Viacom and BBC News will all be showing off their wares in the digital arena. Additionally, Vudu, the digital media branch of the Walmart Company, Disney and Conde Nast will be there, too.
Meanwhile, IAB, the national trade association for the digital media and marketing industries, describes its second annual Digital Content NewFronts West planned for September as an event designed to “serve as a forum for leaders to share insights and explore innovations that will advance the entire digital media and marketing landscape that engage today’s consumer”. . . and more.
As bigger companies get more and more involved with digital advertising, the opportunities for marketing agencies to operate in the digital environment will continue to flourish. We can’t wait to see how upfronts and newfronts continue to evolve.
For more information on buying media that sells, contact Diray Media today.