NewFronts Offer Byte of the Familiar

Talent and media buyers turn out for digital video presentations

The digital video NewFronts last week
felt a lot like the television upfronts. There
were TV stars, loud music, free drinks and lots
of food—all aimed at moving some traditional ad dollars
to a new media. And apparently, everybody found
comfort in the familiar.

“It has exceeded even our wildest imagination in
terms of the attendance, the enthusiasm of the agency
buyers and the marketers, and the professionalism and
seriousness and verve with which the publishers have
put together their presentations,” said Randy Rothenberg,
CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which
organized the NewFronts.

Rothenberg noted that the digital ad business has
long been dominated by tech talk that either flies over
the heads of buyers or is irrelevant to them. The progress
toward finding better ways to talk to agencies and
marketers “was just reinforced and underscored by this
NewFront season,” he said.

For the agencies, “the major learning experience was a
fuller picture of supply [of premium video] and a deeper
understanding of digital distribution,” said John Nitti,
president, activation at Zenith. “We see the ‘TV side’ recognizing
and embracing their linear video count across
all screens to capture full viewership, and the ‘digital
side’ organizing their video content in a channel-like
fashion to be ‘easier’ to buy more like ‘TV.’”

Veteran TV buyer Aaron Cohen, executive VP at Horizon
Media, said digital video cannot be ignored. “Nothing
has ever made an impact on traditional television
as fast,” Cohen said. “You can’t turn your back on this.”

The IAB’s Rothenberg noted two themes that ran
through the presentations. One was that big name creators
said they could do things in the medium of digital
video that they couldn’t do anywhere else. The other
was that “there’s a honking big audience for it.”

Rothenberg noted it appeared that some deals were
getting done, including AOL’s announcement that sponsorship
of its new business shows had been bought out
by agencies Digitas and Razorfish.

Just Getting Warmed Up

Rothenberg added that he expects the NewFronts to
continue as an annual event, even as the lines between
TV and online content merge. “Digital media can absolutely
do different things than advertising in other
media,” he said. “You can not only watch it and receive
messages from it, but you can literally and physically
reach into it, you can explore further into the ad, you
can pull things out of the ad. And you can’t do that in
other media.”

Not that the NewFronts got straight-As all around; some
buyers saw ways things could be done better. “I would
love for the next NewFronts to be less about ‘digital content’
vs. ‘TV content’ and more about the great video content
each organization is bringing to the table for viewers
and marketers to engage with,” said Zenith’s Nitti.

“Eventually it should all be one week of upfront presentations
together [especially for the mega media companies
such as CBS, NBC, Disney, etc.],” Nitti added.
“But there is just not enough time in one week, which
in my mind is a good thing.”

Horizon’s Cohen noted that the NewFronts put a big
concentrated demand on buyers’ time too close to the
insanity of the traditional TV upfront week and would
work better at a different time. “Everybody wants
a piece of everybody. It’s just becoming a little overwhelming,”
he said.

Cohen also noted that the NewFront presentations
looked a lot like upfront presentations, from the entertainment
on stage to the fast-paced film clips. “I don’t
know if there’s another way to do it, but the fact that
they’ve mirrored the presentation formats of traditional
television networks kind of amused me,” he said.

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