ANA Upfront About Possible Changes

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The Association of National Advertisers said Wednesday at its annual TV conference in New York that it would establish a committee to explore possible changes in the spring upfront advertising sales process.

But the group said that its legal department would first vet the idea to make sure such a committee, made up of various industry executives would not afoul of antitrust or restraint of trade laws and regulations. That could take a couple of weeks, at which point the ANA would determine whether or not to proceed with the plan.

The decision wasn’t planned for the conference but instead was a reaction to comments by agency, advertiser, and network executives on a panel discussing the upfront.

Carat CEO David Verklin says the timing of the upfront was a major issue for many advertisers because it forces companies to earmark spending based on budget projections that are still a year away. Having the upfront in the fourth quarter and closer to advertiser budget planning for the following year made more sense, he says.

Jon Nesvig and Mike Shaw, the presidents of sales for Fox and ABC respectively, say they’d conduct the upfront anytime the buyers and their clients want them to.

Verklin also says he wants rules that establish firm stop times during upfront negotiations so that bleary-eyed buyers didn’t make mistakes at 3 a.m. while putting their deals to bed. Verklin also is outraged that networks still charged "integration fees" for inserting commercials into the program mix. Technology made integration a cost-free process years ago and those charges go straight to the bottom line, he says.

MediaCom Co-CEO Jon Mandel says he deals with those fees by embedding them into the ad budgets allocated to the networks that charge such fees. In effect, the buyers spend less on ads to cover those fees.

Verklin’s agency spent $6 million on such fees in 2003.

Separately, 45% of respondents to a just-released ANA survey anticipated reallocating ad dollars away from TV toward other media or marketing options over the next year. Among the media that stood to gain from such a reallocation, 69% of the respondents cited the Internet as place to put such dollars, while 41% cited branded entertainment and 40% noted both direct marketing and magazines.

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