ANA, 4A's agitate for upfront changes

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the association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies joined forces last week to launch a committee that will explore options to the annual upfront TV market, which kicks off May 17. The group will be called the Network Upfront Discussion Group-or "NUDG"-and will hold two meetings before the upfront, on April 29 and May 6 in New York.

"It is clear ... that there is substantial dissatisfaction and frustration with the current process," said Bob Liodice, ANA president-CEO.

O. Burtch Drake, 4A's president-CEO, and Mr. Liodice sent out e-mail invitations to top executives from networks, advertising agencies, advertisers, associations and to legal counsel.

"We will probably get about 30 to 35 people," Mr. Liodice said. "We will have equal representation across advertisers, agencies and media. We will keep this balanced."

big names

Jon Mandel, CEO of Grey Global Group's MediaCom; David Verklin, CEO of Aegis Group's Carat North America; Irwin Gotlieb, CEO of WPP Group's GroupM; Rich Hamilton, CEO of Publicis Group's ZenithOptimedia; and Jack Klues, CEO of sibling Starcom Mediavest Group were on the list. Sales executives from the six broadcast networks as well as those from the Cable Television Advertising Bureau and the Syndicated Network Television Association were also contacted. The e-mail indicated the group will be led by an "outside facilitator" not associated with any of the participating parties.

NUDG's first option under discussion will be a daily "closing bell" that will mark the end of negotiations between ad buyers and sellers during the upfront. The bell is a pet project of Mr. Verklin, who spoke last month at the ANA's annual Television Advertising Forum, where the idea of the group was first put forth. There he cautioned that it was unwise to negotiate millions of dollars late at night on little sleep, while eating cold pizza for dinner. NUDG will also address the issue of moving the upfront to a different month, or splitting into two "half-year" selling seasons.

One executive who received an invitation was admonished by his top broadcast buyer: "Well, go ahead and have fun. And be sure to bring along a cold pizza."

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