On the first day of the broadcast upfronts, two executives leading the charge to innovate TV advertising wound up on opposite sides of the attribution debate.
Speaking at NBCUniversal’s upfront Monday morning (May 14), Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships at NBCU, tried to draw a line between what NBCU can do and what social media companies can do.
“We’re not in the ‘likes’ business,” Yaccarino said. "We’re in the results business. Real verified results, delivered the right way."
“We did what we said we were going to do," she added. "We made television smarter. We made the viewing experience better and we made the advertising environment more powerful. We did that from our commercial innovation. We overhauled our formats across the entire company, cutting both commercial and clutter time. We created the new Prime Pod, which allows for a single brand to own up to 24 minutes in an hour. And we’re using AI to make your ads more contextually relevant and effective.”
Yaccarino said that innovation is driving consumer engagement, improving recall, increasing brand affinity and strengthening purchase intent, and she took a whack at the Nielsen metrics used to measure TV and advertising, C3, the currency for the past 11 years.
“Aren’t we all tired of letting inertia rule our industry?” she said. “The last time currency changed was back in 2007. That was 11 years ago. 11 years ago we used flip phones, now we use smart phones. 11 years ago we used taxis, now we use Ubers. And 11 years ago, Meghan Markle was on Deal or No Deal. And on Saturday she gets to become a princess in England.”
NBCU said it will be using its own currency, CFlight in this year’s upfront. Cflight measures “all screens and co-viewing and complete viewing—not 1.7 seconds of a half-viewable ad with the sound off,” the standard for digital advertising.
Yaccarino also challenged digital advertising over brand safety.
“At NBCUniversal your spot always, always, always runs next to safe, premium content," she said. "A lot of companies simply can’t guarantee that. But we can and we do. So is TV a big investment? You bet your ass it is. Like I said. we’re in the results business. We’re also in the wow business.”
Fox, which put on the Monday afternoon presentation, also offers a high-impact, low clutter pod. Fox calls it’s the JAZ pod, and plans to use it in primetime on Fox Broadcasting, Fox Sports, FX’s new show The Weekly and on National Geographic Channel.
“These will be among the most powerful ads in television,” said Fox president for ad revenue Joe Marchese.
The JAZ pods are part of Fox’s plan to cut ad clutter. “I promise these ad reductions will be a lot more noticeable to views than some other commercial reduction plans,” Marchese said. "And we’re just getting started."
Marchese said that, done right, bringing brands closer to content can have amazing results.
“So why don’t we just guarantee the results?” he said. "It seems popular these days for media vendors of all sorts to start guaranteeing sales outcomes.
“Forget that they have no idea what your product or your pricing or competitive market is going to be,” he added. “Joking aside, I’ve never understood how anyone can promise you sales outcomes and then also work with your competitors. What we can promise is the greatest opportunity and environment to engage an audience. That means the greatest opportunity to deliver you pitch, to sell your products and to build your brands.”
During Yaccarino’s presentation, she was depicted testifying before Congress, in the way Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg answered questions. She was asked, as Zuckerberg was, who is your biggest competitor?
“Marchese thinks he’s my biggest competitor, but it’s actually that bitch pedal princess 98 at Flywheel,” she said.
Fox’s presentation emphasized the network's relatively young and social audience, but took fewer shots at old folks watching CBS. Probably just as well with Fox’s big comedy—The Cool Kids--being set at a retirement community.
And while Marchese joked a bit about how nothing distracting is going on at Fox this year, the network brought out Homer Simpson, whose show is in its 30th season and has made some accurate predictions in the past, including forecasting that Disney would buy Fox—a deal currently in the works.
Asked to make some more predictions about the future, Homer said:
- Due to a short order, the next reboot of 24 will be called 6.
- There will be seven words you can’t say on TV, and president Trump will say them all throughout the State of the Union.
- With the decline in ratings, ABC will launch a new show called .8 Is Enough.
- Following on revivals of Roseanne and Murphy Brown, Fox is bringing its own classics back to life: Skin, John Doe and Herman’s Head.
- Apple and Crackle will partner for a new network called Crapple.
Too Much For Buyers
Ad buyers complained that both the NBCU and Fox presentations were too long.
While they conceded that NBCU had a lot of programming to cover, they said Fox had only a handful of new series being added to its schedules.
“Do they really need more than two minutes to tell us they’ve got the NFL?” said one ad buyer. “Maybe three minutes because they added Thursday [Night Football]. But they don’t have to bring out those guys to talk football for 15 minutes.
After finishing his presentation, Marchese introduced Jamie Foxx, host of Fox’s show Beat Shazzam. Foxx wouldn’t let Marchese off the stage without getting him to dance—but Marchese declined to play along.
Later, during Fox’s upfront party at Wollman Rink in Central Park, Foxx was DJing, and Marchese jumped into a knot of fans on the dance floor to take on Foxx. Challenge accepted, albeit belatedly.
Broadcasting & Cable Newsletter
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below
Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.