MediaVest's Merrifield Sees Digital as a Growing Player in the TV Upfronts
By John Consoli -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/19/2012 2:22:31 PM
This week, Merrifield took some time out from her busy schedule to talk about the recently completed TV upfront and the advertising marketplace.
Looking at this year's broadcast upfront, many of the network sales executives were upset with media coverage that portrayed the upfront deals, both cost-per-thousand price increases and overall revenue intake, as being disappointing for the networks. That is something they have taken issue with. How do you view this past upfront from an agency perspective?
I wasn't necessarily disappointed with the marketplace. It came in about where I thought it would for my clients. I do think the networks would have liked to have seen more money spent in the upfront but at the end of the day, I think the networks are happy with how things turned out. And our clients are happy. But it's not for me to worry about how the networks did or how they feel.
How important has digital video become in upfront deals?
Digital has been part of my world for the past three or four years. There are so many avenues to take. Do I see digital money from advertisers increasing? Yes. My clients are very video focused. The deals we did spanned the gamut in the upfront. Digital was incorporated into every one of our deals -- not just with the TV networks but also with publishing deals we've done. Because that's what our clients want -- more of a total market approach. Everyone is getting into a convergence mindset. We did deals with digital extensions in broadcast, cable and print. We are now buying video, not simply television. Digital as a percentage of upfront dollars is growing and this year may have been the turning point. This was a year in which almost all clients demanded digital as part of their upfront buys. Viewers are watching more video digitally and that's where we want to be, where the consumers are.
How have digital and convergence changed the upfront?
It's no longer easy to buy in the upfront. It's not as simple as it used to be when you just were buying TV commercial time. We don't do just that anymore. You can't compare the upfronts of 10 or even five years ago. Today the deals are deeper than just GRPs [gross ratings points] or total ad dollars spent. There are many more factors that go into a buy. Today there are digital and branded entertainment opportunities that are part of the upfront mix.
You represent some major clients who spend big bucks in the upfront. How would you describe yourself as a negotiator?
I'm not a bully. I am more strategic. If there is not an area that falls into our business plan for a client, we just move on.
Is there ever going to be a time when TV ad pricing hits a ceiling? Or will it be that, as long as both cable and broadcast networks can reach that immediate mass audience, pricing will continue to rise every year no matter what?
Right now, primetime demand is still healthy. There is still content on television that our brands feel they need to be attached to. As long as there is heavy demand for a product where there is a finite amount of GRPs, then the price will not go down. And the demand for television continues to be high. But pricing can be changed as other options come into play. The more clients are able to spread out their spending, the more prices will level off. More dollars are starting to flow into digital but it will be through a natural progression. You can't just jump into digital blindly. You have to do due diligence before you do your first deals and they have to be good ones because they will set the tone for future deals. Social media has also become a factor. Brands want to expand into social media that is tied into television because it becomes a good complement for their brands-conversations combined with television.
Are more clients showing interest in Hispanic media, and what kind of spending growth potential do you see there?
We have plans for our clients that involve the total market. Especially since the last census, Hispanic media has been on the radar of all of our clients. I believe Hispanic media is becoming part of the DNA of all media planning and buying.
How important is TV sports advertising to clients who may have not been big spenders there in past?
I think sports offers a universal language. It unifies small towns. Men and women both watch. It generates conversation. People are gravitating to sports because it is something that takes their minds off the troubled economy. Every demo watches sports. It's a great opportunity for advertisers. It's live. It's something they are talking about the next day while getting a cup of coffee in their local 7-Eleven. The ratings are good. It has a good community feel. Sports reach all demographics. Sports is comfort food for the advertiser.
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