ANA Annual Meeting

CMOs: How Would You Change the Upfront

At ANA, Marketing Leaders Ask for More Flexibility -- a 'Conceptual' Look Earlier, Buying Later

By Published on .

The death of television has been greatly exaggerated, most marketers would agree, as has the death of the upfront.

Tony Pace
Tony Pace

"We still buy in the upfront," said Tony Pace, CMO of the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust, during a CMO Roundtable at the Association of National Advertisers' Masters of Marketing conference. "I found the whole conversation a couple of years ago, 'is the upfront dead?' great. We'll be there in line first. If you want to get the combination of value and quality, you have to be there when the window opens."

But that doesn't mean that marketers wouldn't like to see a few tweaks made to the upfront process.

During the roundtable, sponsored by Nielsen and hosted by Ad Age Editor Abbey Klaassen, chief marketers shared their ideas for how to update the upfront.

John Felice, general manager of Ford and Lincoln marketing: "Reduce the lead time. We're fortunate to have long lead time in developing a vehicle. But we live in a wild time. Things change very rapidly. You're making big bets upfront. The [later] you have to make that business decision, the better off we'll be. In the meantime, we'll still make the flight to quality."

Tony Pace, CMO of the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust: I'd love to see something like a more conceptual upfront in February and then do the buying much later in the summer. We as a brand would like to be in places that are appropriate for us, and where the community embraces us. You have to have those conversations earlier."

Scott Remy, chief communications officer of Nestle S.A.: "One wish is that we could push it back. We're making huge bets in an increasingly unpredictable world. Especially, in Southern California where we've seen our home prices drop so precipitously and unemployment is huge. But the cost of the upfront is so huge and so early. I wish it felt like it was accommodating what's happening in the rest of society. A lot of people are hurting. My wish would be later. That's a good idea to do it conceptually first and lay the money down later -- we'd have a smarter outcome."

Barry Judge, CMO of Best Buy: "The positive is you get price. The negative is you're locked in. The problem is a lack of flexibility. I love that conceptual idea too. It would give us more time to have those conversations."

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