ANA Endorses Shifting Upfront to Calendar Year

ANA chairman Marc Pritchard (Image credit: JL)

Major advertisers represented by the Association of National Advertisers have endorsed shifting the upfront marketplace to be based on calendar years as one of a number of changes it wants in the way media is bought and sold.

Most upfront buys have traditional been transacted on a broadcast year basis--running from fourth quarter to third quarter--going back to when the TV networks launched new programmings in sync with new car model years.

This year’s upfront has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which canceled the networks glitzy upfront presentations to advertisers and had thrown marketers plans into chaos as consumers were stuck indoors, many businesses closed and plans for reopening vary business by business and state by state.

(Image credit: ANA)

“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.”

Some of the proposed changes were outlined in white papers created by the ANA Media Advisory Board, a group that includes executives from Bank of American, Mastercard, McDonald’s, Nestle, Procter & Gamble and Unilever.

They recommended that the current upfront market be delayed until greater marketplace information and clarity becomes available.

“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.”

Some advertisers already buy their TV time on a calendar basis. The advertisers argue that shifting more of the market would give them more certainty about their budget plans and line up better with their financial planning.

“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 reform around the upfront approach is needed and overdue,” said Rob Master, VP of media and digital engagement at Unilever.

Upfront timing was just one of the issues addressed by the ANA.

“As stewards of business and brand growth, marketers must transform the current sub-optimal media ecosystem,” said ANA Chairman Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at P&G. “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.”

He noted several initiatives in the works that could change the industry. Those included:

“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.”

Jon Lafayette

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.