Taking a FutureFronts Approach to Advertising’s Biggest Financial Commitment of the Year

It’s coming on spring, which inevitably brings our industry’s annual pilgrimage to Manhattan for the Upfronts and Newfronts. I have to ask: Are we seriously going another year planning our marketing efforts in separate linear TV vs. digital video silos?

As consumer attention and high quality episodic content continues to migrate to OTT, AVOD, skinny bundles and even short-form mobile video -- a combined $86 billion opportunity in the U.S. this year according to eMarketer -- the corresponding viewership needs to be seen as part of the upfront process, and the investment needs to be planned, executed and measured in a holistic fashion.

It is time that we take a “Future Fronts” approach to the linear television upfronts as well as the digital newfronts -- bringing a people-centric, data-driven and efficient “digital” mindset to the premium quality and essential scale of upfront TV. As Jim Nail from Forrester found in his research with the ANA, 50% of marketers that are either already buying advanced TV, or experimenting with it this year. The market is rapidly shifting to unite the screens and make audience-based buying a meaningful part of the upfront process. This also makes much more urgent the ability to bring in new types of cross screen measurement and attribution to these transactions.

For example, in addition to their separate digital spend, typically in today’s Upfront and Newfront marketplaces, 80% of the budget that Advertisers commit gets applied to linear TV buys, while 20% go to a “fluidity” fund that the programmer or network applies to digital inventory including OTT / CTV and VOD systems with full episode player inventory. Yet, this fluidity spend is not optimized against the advertiser’s target audiences as it would be if bought programmatically. Hence up to 20% of advertisers’ intended TV spend is instead going into a sort of “digital dumping ground.”

The holistic planning and buying of linear TV and digital video -- with optimization and extension, measurement of deduplicated reach and frequency, and finally accurate attribution -- requires a truly cross-screen, audience-driven and forward-looking approach. Achieving that nirvana requires a radical reimagination of the audience data resources and methodologies, as well as the currencies by which we plan, buy and measure media, (GRP, CPM, etc.) not to mention a complete reinvention of today’s workflows as well as integration with existing systems such as Mediaocean, FreeWheel, Operative, and others.

We understand that. Future Fronts is the manifestation of nearly four years of work unifying TV and video advertising. We’re moving steadily from inefficient bifurcation to holistic unification, ultimately delivering deduplicated reach and frequency across all campaigns. Breaking out of legacy siloes will benefit all parties while creating new liquidity:

• Advertisers will get more efficient reach, be able to leverage their sizable investments in martech, and suffer far less waste and achieve better results;

• Agencies can easily apply the new data stacks being developed, and automate several manual steps in the research, investment planning, and scatter processes.

• TV programmers, video publishers and MVPDs will increase yield and see a normalization of pricing across their properties and platforms; and more efficiently monetize new formats.

• Consumers will get more relevant and far fewer redundant commercial messages across all screens.

At the annual National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference this week, we’re talking with industry leaders about exactly that Future Fronts approach: one that empowers advertisers and media owners alike to conduct audience-based buying in the linear upfront market with accurate, impression-level measurement across all playback devices, including digital video and OTT. With this approach, we believe the upfronts will lead to an intelligent scatter/TV Extension market that covers all linear and digital platforms.

Jay Prasad is the Chief Strategy Officer for VideoAmp. In this role, Jay leads the corporate strategy development and also the partnership and marketing teams responsible for accelerating the industry’s move to automation and unification of TV and all forms of digital video.

VideoAmp is the software and data solutions company powering the convergence of the linear TV and digital video marketing ecosystems.