June 13, 2020

Marketers, looking for increased productivity and transparency in their media investments, are calling for sweeping changes and improvements in the media ecosystem. This includes transformative changes to the upfront marketplace.

ANA Chairman and P&G Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard, is encouraging marketers to take control of the media agenda, noting that returns on media investments are below industry potential.

“As stewards of business and brand growth, marketers must transform the current sub-optimal media ecosystem,” said Pritchard. “While there are benefits to the upfront, it remains an antiquated business system that needs reform.  Other efforts such as cross platform measurement, brand safety, anti-fraud, data transparency, and privacy are also taking way too long and must be accelerated. This industry must constructively disrupt itself to create sustained, systemic value and that requires all marketers, publishers, broadcasters, platforms, agencies, suppliers, and trade associations to come together now.”

Some of these changes were outlined in two white papers created by the ANA Media Advisory Board, a subset of the ANA Media Leadership Committee. This group includes senior level, client-side media executives from marketers such as Bank of America, Mastercard, McDonald’s Corp., Nestle USA, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever. The Media Advisory Board focused particular attention on the upfront marketplace and the need to begin its evolution.

The driving force behind the white papers and the Advisory Board’s efforts is the myriad of challenges posed by the current climate of uncertainty starting with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The marketing community must revisit the media buying environment and develop changes that will accommodate the new reality forced upon us,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice.  “It is a fundamental imperative to include the evolution of the upfront among those legacy systems that need change and improvement.”

The upfront TV marketplace is traditionally a spring event where the television networks preview their upcoming fall programming. Advertisers – and their media agencies – can then buy advertising time “upfront” for the next broadcast year, which historically begins in September/October.

The report recommended that the current upfront market be delayed until greater marketplace information and clarity becomes available. This should not change the all-year negotiating process that currently exists between buyers and sellers. Nor should it change the fundamentals of marketplace transactions, with each company making its own independent determination of when and what advertising time it will purchase. Rather, it should be part of a process that is grounded in flexibility and includes, as a choice, a better-timed upfront.

“The calendar year upfront is a modification of the legacy broadcast year upfront where the same general principles apply – advertising bought and sold in advance,” the white paper said.  “However, the time frame is shifted to purchase inventory in a specific calendar year upfront with the typical negotiation window occurring in the fall or early winter timeframe.”

That point was reinforced by Unilever VP of Media and Digital Engagement Rob Master, who said: “The fundamental structure of the upfront marketplace provides benefits to all parties.  The timing of the marketplace to accurately forecast supply and demand has been challenging.  We believe shifting the upfront to calendar year timing will benefit the entire industry, provide a more accurate view on supply and demand, and allow the industry to reform.”

While calendar year activity exists at a smaller scale today, an increased shift would provide more certainty in what media companies are selling and buyers are buying, increased certainty on budgets, and better synergy with the planning calendars for many companies, brands, agencies and media owners alike, the white paper said.

“As we navigate uncertain times on a global and unprecedented scale, all of us are having to re-engineer every aspect of how we go to market,” said Meredith Verdone, chief marketing officer, Bank of America.  “The upfronts, a long-serving and valuable marketplace, are no exception.  I’m excited about the efforts the ANA has championed to bring buyers, sellers and agencies together to talk about the art of the possible in a truly collaborative and imaginative way. From crisis comes ingenuity.”

Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer, Mastercard, added: “It’s more important than ever that we remain agile, smart, creative and flexible with our campaigns and our process; we do this for our partners and expect our partners do this for us.”

The Media Advisory Board pointed out that these issues need to be resolved quickly. “We must understand and appreciate the timing considerations that are immediately upon us and the subsequent need to tackle the timing issue first,” the report noted.

Pritchard added: “Timing is only one of the choices marketers make.  We need far greater marketplace transparency throughout the media system to enable choices to drive out media waste, improve effectiveness, and dramatically elevate the consumer experience. Only then can we achieve true media transformation and reform.”

Encouragingly, Pritchard acknowledged several embryonic initiatives that can revolutionize the industry, including:

  •     The WFA/ANA collaboration to drive global advances in cross platform measurement.
  •     The Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) to eliminate harmful content online and alleviate brand safety concerns.
  •     Privacy for America, which is focused on creating national privacy legislation through the development of one common standard among all states.
  •     An industry effort to address the transition to a digital ecosystem without third-party cookies.

The underlying goal behind these efforts is to challenge outdated legacy systems and to substantially upgrade consumer focused, results-oriented decision making.

The spirit of transformation and reform was captured by Alicia Enciso, chief marketing officer, Nestlé USA, when she said: “The global pandemic has affected people everywhere in profound and lasting ways. Now, more than ever, marketers need to adapt how we connect with our consumers as their media behavior continues to evolve. Ensuring that we have clarity into the video marketplace is critical  for us to make effective and responsible media decisions given the levels of investment involved.”

“The ANA board of directors strongly endorses the continued reform of the media ecosystem,” said Pritchard. “The ANA’s mission is to drive business, brand, and market growth.  We are doubling down to transform the media industry through the powerful initiatives led by the ANA and its strategic partners.”

The ANA Media Advisory Board has issued two reports — one for the C-suite and the other for media practitioners — to address these important issues.

    The Television Upfront: An Important Step for Media Transformation and Reform — For the C-Suite

    The Television Upfront — For Media Practitioners

 

 

 

 

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