Upfront ad spending to fall 33 percent this year, study finds
As firm commitments wane, overall ad spending is poised to drop by one-third in the 2020 upfront season with advertisers increasingly looking to scatter-based strategies amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a new study suggests.
Conducted in early May by analytics firm Advertiser Perceptions, the survey of 151 major advertisers found that 48 percent agreed with the statement, “Nobody will be willing to buy more than one quarter’s worth of TV inventory in this year’s Upfront.” Meanwhile, 26 percent of those surveyed disagreed, while the remaining 26 percent remained neutral.
“The Upfront strikes at the heart of the uncertainty advertisers are struggling with,” said Justin Fromm, executive VP of business intelligence at Advertiser Perceptions. “They can’t commit long-term but they can’t afford to get caught flat-footed in a tight scatter market, either.”
The study also reported advertisers’ top five general concerns about upfront investments this year, which include: how soon the U.S. will return to business as usual; the susceptibility of major events and live sports to cancelation; and the unpredictability of linear ratings estimates.
Caught between a rock and a hard place, many advertisers are taking the COVID-19 crisis day-by-day, but will look to shift away from the usually more-expensive, less-reliable scatter market as the TV environment returns to normal.
An unnamed VP of a Fortune 100 advertiser is quoted by Advertiser Perceptions as saying: “We can’t put ourselves in a position to be beholden to things money-wise. But we don’t want to be the advertiser left behind if we hedge our bets and don’t do a big Upfront.”
With an ever-increasing amount of ad-supported streaming (AVOD) and OTT services, including Quibi, ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV, and WarnerMedia’s soon-to-be-launched HBO Max (which won’t transition to an AVOD model until 2021), marketers may turn to digital as a replacement for lost or uncertain linear TV opportunities.
According to the survey, 50 percent of advertisers believe that necessary ratings can be achieved by substituting OTT, connected TV and digital video for linear TV, compared to just 20 percent of respondents who disagree.