John Muszynski is heading for his 34th upfront. He’s now chief investment officer for Spark, the media agency brand under Starcom MediaVest Group. Since Muszynski and CEO Chris Boothe took over two years ago, Spark has nearly tripled its billings and this year has already won the ConAgra and REI accounts.
So when the B&C Hall of Famer talks, it’s worth listening. And Muszynski says this year’s upfront will be very different.
“We’re going to have a lot more information at our hands to help make more informed decisions. We’ve got greater research and data that’s available, whether it’s purchase data, audience data, social activity data. All of that is going to help us as we commit to decisions as we go into this upfront,” he says.
This should also be the year digital video impacts demand for TV. “Finally we have enough scale and enough options out there in the digital video space to really make an impact on the marketplace,” Muszynski says. “We’re sending money there because that is in fact where the audience is going. They’re engaged. That’s where they want to consume that content.”
Spark this year will be putting together its buys using a zerobased approach. Most of the industry bases its buys off of what it did last year. It’s one reason why the upfront changes so little from year to year, and also helps ensure that prices steadily rise.
The new approach is designed to find “what’s right to reach our clients’ consumer, and really what we did last year should have very little to do with what we’re going to do for next year,” Muszynski says. “I think we did a great job last year. But that was last year.”
Muszynski says his agency did some research looking at the total supply of gross ratings points by network over the past five years. For a number of those networks, “their GRP supply is plummeting yet their ad spending is skyrocketing,” he says. “The way I look at that is if everyone continues to throw more money against the same players who have a shrinking supply, you can’t complain about the price increases they’re looking for because you’re driving your own increases. But because everyone looks at this marketplace from a ‘let’s start from where we were a year ago’ [approach], we get ourselves into that trouble.”
It’s media agencies’ job to figure out which networks are on the upswing, and which are on the down turn. Also which shows are going to work and which aren’t.
“It’s not just so we can win the pool of which show is going to get canceled first or which is going to be the biggest hit, but let’s not forget that’s what we’re doing for our clients. We’ve got to give them the good bets.”
Muszynski says that at this year’s upfront presentations, he’s focusing on each network’s approach to digital, looking for those networks that are really attempting to connect with consumers, whether they’re watching online, on second screens or on mobile devices.
But much of what he hears is networks bragging about how well they’re doing. “I walk out of every upfront during the broadcast week and go ‘wow, how can they all be No. 1?’ It’s really amazing.”
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