How To

Surviving the Web Video 'Upfront'

How to Avoid Common Mistakes in Ad Buying

By Published on .

Although the television upfront season has long passed, online video upfronts are in full swing. Many online advertisers choose to buy upfront in order to secure favorable pricing or lock up impactful inventory placements for the upcoming year.

In years past, many agencies or advertisers with a portfolio of brands used the upfront buying process to negotiate large package deals. This year, as a result of larger average campaign budgets and many more advertisers leverage online video, many individual advertisers are structuring upfront buys for their 2009 campaigns. With so much buying interest, coupled with the unique needs of each client, this process can be overwhelming.

Having been through this process multiple times, here are my six lessons learned for video advertisers buying upfront:

Avoid the Broadcast/Digital Bundle
Many traditional broadcasters try to bundle in digital distribution along with the television buy. The only times it makes sense to buy the bundle is if you get extremely favorable pricing. In most cases, buying the bundled content means you're getting gouged on the digital price.

Only Buy the Ad Units You Want and No More
Many digital publishers have established their own version of the bundle and will try to sell sponsorships, banners and custom content along with the key video ad units. Video is the highest performing ad unit and often the only unit you want. Only buy upfront if the units are decoupled.

Demand Price Efficiency
Particularly in a down economy, inventory prices will be flexible in upfront situations. If you are buying over $1M in inventory, you likely have strong pricing leverage. Although inventory will be available next year, it is unlikely that the aggressive upfront pricing will remain as budgets are split among smaller buys.

Explore Both Publisher and Network Options
Publishers can offer specific content or home page placements that will likely be unavailable if you wait until the new year. Networks can offer far more reach and the ability to optimize during the year so you aren't stuck with underperforming placements.

Reserve Budget To Expand Successes
Often times, certain placements within an upfront buy will perform extremely well. However, if you are locked into inventory commitments and your partners can't optimize among each other then successes don't scale. Keep a chunk of your budget on hand to further invest in winning placements.

Plan and Negotiate With Your 'A-Team'
In traditional broadcast media, upfront inventory is bought and sold between the most experienced and powerful buyers and sellers in the business. With large dollar numbers on the table and significant business commitments, it is important to take the process from beginning to end with your best players.

Smart digital buyers are taking advantage of this modern version of the upfront and providing significant efficiency to their clients and media buying teams. Reducing the need for ongoing RFPs and inventory/vendor evaluations, enables agencies to focus on broader campaign initiatives and client service. Ultimately, upfronts are about efficiency, price and profitability, all three of which we could all use a bit more of.

About Tod Sacerdoti Tod Sacerdoti is the CEO and founder of BrightRoll, the world's largest branded video advertising network. Under Sacerdoti's direction, BrightRoll has grown from conception into the premier video advertising network, having served billions of ads on behalf of the world's leading agencies and their clients and executed campaigns on more than two-thirds of the top 100 online media properties in the United States. A recognized expert on online advertising, Tod is a regular guest columnist for AdAge and MediaPost and is widely quoted in publications such as ClickZ and The Wall Street Journal, among others. He has previously held senior roles at Plaxo (acquired by Comcast), Spoke Software, and covered Internet marketing as an investment banker at Robertson Stephens. Tod holds a B.A. in Economics from Yale University and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
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