News Corp. offered a fresh take on the NewFronts on Friday, transforming the first floor of the Altman Building in New York into a showroom to bring its digital products and video series to life through various installations.
It was, to borrow a popular buzzword, an experiential NewFront.
Instead of inviting attendees to sit down and watch sizzle reels showing off digital video and listen to executives pitch their wares, News Corp. showed only a short video -- broadcast on screens in the event space -- highlighting a handful of video efforts from News Corp. brands: The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and Storyful, a platform that identifies and verifies emerging stories across social media. Attendees remained standing while they watched.
The pitch to advertisers in the room was soft. At the end of the video, on-screen text briefly relayed the ways advertisers can work with News Corp. The affair was a departure from many NewFronts, where media companies execs strongly urge advertisers (in one way or another) to buy ads.
"We almost don't need to sell the shows" because of advertisers' strong demand for high-quality video, Trevor Fellows, head of global media sales at The Wall Street Journal, told Ad Age.
Friday marked The Wall Street Journal's third time at the NewFronts, the annual series of pitches from digital publishers seeking TV ad budgets partly by imitating TV's upfront pitches. Last year, News Corp.'s event focused on the Journal and not the company's other brands.
News Corp.' goal event this year was to talk with the advertisers and media buyers -- who might have been a touch burned-out following a week of NewFronts presentations -- in an informal environment, according to Mr. Fellows. Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerry Baker, dressed casually in an open collar shirt and blazer, roamed the crowd, chatting breezily with attendees.
"If we start 50 conversations today, it will be a success," Mr. Fellows added.
That approach, of course, puts the pressure on News Corp.'s individual ad sellers. The more common big, splashy NewFronts can serve as air support for the salespeople on the ground. They let media companies boldly and succinctly tell a roomful of advertisers about their digital-video slate, their audience and their distribution strategy, then conclude with a why-it-all-matters speech.
As for News Corp., the installations on display Friday showed off a handful of its new digital endeavors. A wood-paneled living room provided attendees a glimpse of "Americana," a digital-video series comprised of 40 short films about American capitalism from WSJ Custom Studios, the Journal's in-house department charged with creating content for advertisers.
A small stage provided the setting for a New York Post video series called "One More Night," in which musicians recreate a performance at legendary music venues that are now closed. A different Post production, "Blockumentaries," explains how cultural history unfolds on a single block.
Another corner of the event space resembled a fancy living room, an effort to evoke a new luxury real estate guide called Mansion.
The flipside of this haute nook was a colorful display showing off The Post Digital Network's new product IAF, short for Internet Action Force, which employs "highly trained, socially awkward digital nerds" to quickly create videos -- like, in a matter of hours -- about what people are talking about at that moment.