Upfront 2010

What TV Advertisers Want From the Upfront

Media Buyers' Takes on the Network Pitches: OMD's Chris Geraci

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The TV networks are busy putting their best face forward at this week's upfront presentations, trying to convince advertisers that their new schedules are stacked with programs only a fool wouldn't buy. But before the presentations began, Ad Age made the rounds among some prominent media buyers for their takes on the networks' pitches, most interesting shows, the appeal of online video and "event TV."

Chris Geraci
Chris Geraci
Chris Geraci, managing director of national TV investment at Omnicom Group's OMD, talks about what he's looking for from networks.

Ad Age: What kinds of video programming are advertisers sorely in need of, and why?

Mr. Geraci: Advertisers are in need of programming that connects with their consumer target , and whatever that is and however that is distributed is what's most important. It's all about delivering to those target audiences in environments that are engaging and in some ways, if possible, directly enhance the viewership of that commercial messaging.

Ad Age: Are there shows you've heard about that you really want to make it to air?

Mr. Geraci: Every year at this time we get a lot of buzz about certain shows and, as always, certain things have risen to the top to some degree. There are definitely a couple of classic shows that seem to be coming back that will definitely make some noise and get some attention -- "Hawaii Five-O" on CBS, "The Rockford Files" on NBC, a J.J. Abrams show on NBC called "Undercovers" looks pretty good, another version of "Law & Order," a pretty solid franchise, which is probably is a safe play, there's been good buzz about a Fox show ... called "Terra Nova" and "No Ordinary Family" on ABC.

Ad Age: How sure are you when you identify a program you want to be associated with that it will be a hit? What's the risk to a brand if the show tanks or is just middling?

Mr. Geraci: The reason you do an upfront is for those audience guarantees you get and price advantage. So the fact you get an audience guarantee protects you from any one show falling off the face of the earth. You don't want to make too much of a bet on any one show and have it fail because that will impact you from a missed opportunity in other places. If you think a show is going to do well and you buy a lot of it and work out some sort of product or brand integration and it doesn't perform and they pull it off the air, you're going to have to scramble for some alternatives. But the ratings performance of a particular show will most likely never have a direct correlation to the brand. It's going to be more of a missed opportunity cost because I didn't invest as much in another property.

Ad Age: How much earlier than in upfronts past are you starting to talk about product or brand integration or devising "hybrid" TV spots that use your product or name as well as the TV property you're sponsoring?

Mr. Geraci: We talk about it 12 months a year. It's not an upfront phenomenon any longer. A lot of time you're leveraging upfront spend to get it done and they may be the cornerstone of an agreement you build an upfront deal around or it may take place outside of the upfront because there are so many shows that get launched at other times of the year that the argument could be made that it's easier to do it outside of the upfront. I don't want to say that those things are entirely tied to the upfront because they aren't.

Ad Age: When is online video more appropriate than traditional TV and vice versa?

Mr. Geraci: There are certain constituencies and groups, which skew younger, that are more likely to experience TV programming online than others. In that regard, streaming is something that is more in the consideration set for younger brands and products. We value good programming environments no matter how they are distributed. Getting that message to a consumer via a TV network's website is great if we can make that happen.

Ad Age: What's your take on how the scatter market will play out in the fall and winter?

Mr. Geraci: There was a fair amount of money that didn't get spent in the upfront for specific reasons that have to do more with financial controls on the advertisers' side than anything else. And given how dire some of the economic indicators were at this time last year, advertisers had to be very cautious in terms of making long-term commitments and that money came back in throughout the year. This year you will see a modest increase in terms of upfront spend and not as much money coming in after the fact. There will be some scatter inflation but not as much as we saw this year because there won't be that ongoing demand if many of these clients can get their money down in the upfront.

Ad Age: Big sports and even some scripted "events" are getting top dollar. Are these TV moments worth the price, and why?

Mr. Geraci: In a world of fragmenting viewership, the scarcity of the big, high-rated events warrants the attention they get. It's a simple law of nature. The recent ratings performance of some of these things also supports the idea that they should garner these premiums. Each year we see a stability in overall TV usage, we continue to see lower average ratings in many places because there's more choices. So the big events that still garner a large audience have their value and there's no disputing that. It tends to make things more expensive than someone in my position wants them to be, but at the same time I have a good idea of the demand for them and I know that it's there because of the scarcity of them.