How CMOs Will Spend the TV Upfronts

Top Marketers Are Focusing More on Smaller Meetings and Year-Round Buys

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The network TV upfronts are an important time of year for top marketing executives. We asked five of them -- Peter DeLuca, senior VP-brand and advertising, T-Mobile; Laura Henderson, associate director, U.S. media and communications, Mondelez International; Matt Jauchius, exec VP-CMO, Nationwide; Michele Schuh, media director, Old Navy; and Tim Sullivan VP-media, Wendy's -- how they will be spending the week.

What does your schedule look like during upfronts?

Peter DeLuca, T-Mobile
Peter DeLuca, T-Mobile

DELUCA: While I personally won't be attending the upfronts, my team has a very aggressive schedule planned, and on average we typically attend 80% of the presentations.

HENDERSON: I typically try to stick to two to three events per day to ensure I have enough time to engage. I find the more intimate, interactive conversations are the most valuable part of the upfronts so I make sure to prioritize that time.

JAUCHIUS: I don't attend. I do have interactions at the highest levels with the networks off-cycle. My team meets with all of those folks when they're out there. ... I want to have the right assets that matter. I'm not interested in parties. I'm not trying to sound like a stick in the mud, but that's not a decision criteria for us to buy media. The relationships matter because I want to make sure they think of me and my brand when they have innovations. … The value of the upfronts is to learn what's coming up, what's hot, what's new. ... But personally, as the CMO I don't need to be there to learn that.

Matt Jauchius, Nationwide
Matt Jauchius, Nationwide

SCHUH: The agency [PHD] is still planning my week. But I have my calendar from last year. It's a crazy-busy week. I tell them "I'm all yours for the week. Pack in as much as you can." Some are obviously the bigger upfront presentations, but I always ask that we have at least a couple of lunches and dinners in a smaller setting with some of the key networks we work with so they understand the business challenges we're facing.

SULLIVAN: I'm in back-to-back meetings every day from breakfast to late night. I typically attend all of the broadcast network presentations, the Hispanic network presentations and the cable network upfront sessions for those networks Wendy's advertises on most.

What is one thing that has swayed you during the upfronts in past years?

JAUCHIUS: I look for the opportunity to get in early. I look for integrations and then I look for new innovation like NFL Now. Those are the kinds of things that you can find out in upfronts, more in meetings than in big announcements and parties.

SCHUH: I like to keep an eye on the programming and direction the network is heading in. Especially with Old Navy being a family brand … we want to make sure we're not on network programming that's too dark. ... And as the media environment is shifting, what are the TV networks doing to address that?

What is one thing you would change about the upfronts?

DELUCA: We would love to see timing of the upfronts happen closer to our business-planning cycle. In an age of programmatic and on-demand media buying, the existing upfront model and schedule feels a bit archaic.

Michele Schuh, Old Navy
Michele Schuh, Old Navy

HENDERSON: I would like them to be more intimate and focused.

SCHUH: The timing of the upfronts is always challenging. They're in May. We're just two months into our fiscal year right now and I'm already thinking about buying TV for back-to-school next year, which is a challenge to get the organization to think that far ahead. … I definitely like the more one-on-one conversations I have when I go to the upfronts.

How important are the upfronts to your media plan?

HENDERSON: This year we're increasingly focused on how to make our buys more dynamic and accountable. With more and more data comes more informed choices.

How has your participation in the upfronts changed?

Tim Sullivan, Wendy's
Tim Sullivan, Wendy's

JAUCHIUS: We have more than doubled where we were five years ago [in terms of investment]. I don't know that we're going to increase dramatically from here. … In the world of the upfronts, Nationwide is now meaningful. I'm not sure we were five years ago.

SULLIVAN: I think there's a greater sense today that not all national TV buying is ruled by the upfront marketplace. Increasingly, media buying and building partnerships between networks and advertisers requires a 365-days-a-year process.