MARKETERS ARE UNHAPPY WITH THE UPFRONT

At the ANA TV Forum, More Than Half Dissatisfied With Process

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The Association of National Advertisers' TV Ad Forum this morning revealed some lingering sourness over the upfront buying process. More than half the estimated 350 attendees, from major marketing firms and agencies, said they weren't happy with the upfront, where billions of ad dollars are committed to TV in advance of the fall season.
Ian Beavis: “Don’t get up and bitch and moan and then do the same thing you’ve always done. Do the right thing to do for that brand at that particular time.”
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Responding to an instant electronic poll -- "How satisfied are you with the upfront?" -- 36% said they were "somewhat dissatisfied" and 20% were "very dissatisfied." Only 10% said they were "very satisfied"; 23% were "somewhat satisfied."

Ian Beavis
The poll was orchestrated by Ian Beavis, VP-marketing at Kia Motors America, who famously yanked his network TV spending as marketing chief at Mitsubishi Motors North America in favor of other media. Mr. Beavis also asked attendees whether they would prefer the upfront to be conducted on a calendar year rather than in May, when the broadcast networks decide their shows for the TV season. A whopping 83% said opted for the calendar year, while 10% said no.

Despite the negative sentiment, it’s unlikely advertisers will do much to change the game. When given the opportunity to bring up their feelings at a meeting convened by the ANA in 2004, advertisers opted to stick with the status quo and the Network Upfront Discussion Group (NUDG) was disbanded.

Mr. Beavis, as part of his presentation, defended his decision to pull Mitsubishi's TV ad spending and blamed the automaker’s subsequent sales problems on the product. He held up the Mazda 5 as an example of an auto marketer that achieved sales success without using TV in the media mix.

He urged advertisers to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. “Don’t get up and bitch and moan and then do the same thing you’ve always done,” he said. “Do the right thing to do for that brand at that particular time.”

One positive came out of the polls for broadcasters. When asked if other media such as online and cinema should be included in the upfront, the majority of respondents, 59%, said no. Only 37% wanted to hold negotiations with such alternative media while their TV talks were taking place.

Spending plans
A poll on upfront spending plans, conducted by Pfizer’s Scott Grenz, senior director of media, U.S. and Canada, advertising services, revealed that 32% of respondents were planning to spend less on TV at this year's upfront, while 31% said they planned to spend more; 32% said they planned to spend the same amount.

Mr. Grenz’s upfront spending poll kicked off the one-day event, held in New York at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The full day of panels, titled “Life Beyond the :30,” also saw some participants extolling their partnerships with broadcast networks. Perianne Grignon, VP-media services, Sears, said that after an episode of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” 29% of viewers surveyed expressed a greater likelihood of visiting a Sears store. “Sears’ sponsorship of Bravo’s ‘Top Chef’ is also paying off,” she added. Branded entertainment vehicles and product integration shows no sign of waning in popularity among marketers as a response to a more widespread consumer usage of digital video recorders, which in theory allow them to skip commercials on playback.

Defending traditional broadcasters
CBS’ Exec VP-Chief Research Officer David Poltrack defended traditional broadcasters and called for a reality check when it comes to emerging digital media. “There have been 1.8 million iPods sold since October and 12 million downloads of programming such as ‘Lost’ and ‘Desperate Housewives.’ To put this in perspective, we introduced a new TV program, ‘The Unit,’ and 20 million people watched that program.”

Mr. Poltrack urged those in attendance to spend their time thinking about the ad environment of today rather than the future. “How much time are you putting into changes happening in 2010? How much time are you dedicating to opportunities this fall?” The question was well-timed. Later in the morning, ANA President Bob Liodice said that the average tenure of a chief marketing officer was only 23 months.

CBS conducts research on how well its own promotions work to get their own proof of the medium's effectiveness. Commenting on the debate over commercial ratings -- which some advertisers would prefer to use as the barometer of their pay rates vs. program minutes -- Mr. Poltrack said that commercial ratings are inherently unstable and cited research conducted by Magna Global's Exec VP-Audience Analysis Steve Sternberg that backed up those findings.

Streaming video
As for TV networks’ Internet rivals, Mr. Poltrack said Web giants such as Google were engaged in direct marketing and not advertising: “There are limitations on search. It can’t continue to grow.” He said streaming video on the Internet was the big growth engine and that would most likely be fuelled by broadcast network programming. CBS’ coverage online of this month's NCAA basketball tournament had attracted 14 million downloads, 4 million unique users and 268,000 live streams, which had benefited its advertisers, such as Courtyard by Marriott and Dell.

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