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The Alliance, the media-buying juggernaut created by sister shops J. Walter Thompson Co. and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, plans to make commercial clutter a major factor in its upfront negotiations.

"If demand during the upfront softens this year, which we think is a good possibility, we want to reward those networks that are less commercialized by giving them a bigger share of our business," said Jean Pool, JWT's exec VP-director of North American media services, and one of four executives overseeing New York-based Alliance.

Ms. Pool's remarks are significant because she said the Alliance buys about $2 billion worth of national TV time, second only to MacManus Group's New York-based TeleVest. JWT and O&M are units of WPP Group.

While there's been talk among agencies and cable networks that cable might see a significant revenue gain during the upfront, Ms. Pool said: "We won't blindly move money to cable. We will carefully look at each network's clutter situation as well."

Various research has said the more commercials in a show, the less a viewer pays attention to the advertising, Ms. Pool noted, adding she was especially concerned about the ad inventory on ABC. The network added 7.7% more prime-time slots last year, according to an analysis by Myers Report, giving ABC almost 1,000 more ad minutes than the next-closest network, NBC.

"We've added inventory to ensure we reach our guarantees to advertisers in a very timely manner," said Marvin Goldsmith, ABC president-sales and marketing.

Furthermore, he said, by adding inventory the network has been able to keep unit prices down.

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