The 9th annual NewFronts – featuring presentations by 39 brands during the next two weeks across New York City – kicked off with a MediaLink breakfast that served as the calm before the storm, favoring conversation over pitches.
Jim Bankoff, CEO of Vox Media (parent of sites such as SB Nation and The Verge), used his breakfast keynote slot to announce an extension of the company's month-old venture called Concert, which involves NBCU and Vox sharing ads across their respective sites. (NBCU is an investor in Vox.) Google has partnered with the companies to enable Concert with its programmatic buying infrastructure.
"It's the first time that Google is making their proprietary units available" to a broad swath of advertisers on a programmatic basis, Bankoff told MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan.
Frequently during their discussion, he touched on the need for digital content companies to raise their ad game and not just think of it as an add-on. "Advertising itself is a product," he said. The plague of ad blocking is the best example of that, he pointed out. "Audiences are not distancing themselves from advertising through some anarchic mindset where they say, 'Screw the man.' They're tuning out experiences that damage their actual consumption, that get in the way of content, that burn off mobile minutes.... It's incumbent upon us as premium publishers to separate ourselves from the pack."
Harry Kargman, founder and CEO of mobile ad agency Kargo, joined the pair for a followup panel and offered a daunting statistic when asked about the gap between consumer mobile usage and advertisers' investment in mobile ads: About 65% to 70% of total digital ad revenue is controlled by Facebook and Google. "You're going to want to play nice with them because they control so much," he said.
While the upfront TV marketplace has suffered a bit of erosion lately, with the shortfall made up in scatter, dollars have been flowing into NewFronts companies’ coffers. eMarketer projects a 28.5% rise in digital video ad revenue in 2016, to reach a total of $9.59 billion, largely due to gains in mobile video.
The IAB, which began organizing the NewFronts in 2013 after they had originated with Digitas in 2008, released suvey results as the fortnight began suggesting the NewFronts will only grow in importance in the years to come. This year's schedule features some of the mainstays, such as YouTube, Hulu and AOL, but also a large swath of traditional print companies (The New York Times, Hearst, Condé Nast, The Economist, Time Warner Cable, National Geographic, Time, Playboy) plus a range of pure digital players whose roots pre-date video (Mashable, WebMD, PopSugar).
"I'm a strong believer in this becoming a video friont," Kassan said. "It's just one. ... And by the way, I don't know any marketers who look at it any other way today."