This year’s NewFronts highlighted a growing field of connected TV players—from Roku to Vizio—and social media standouts like Snapchat and TikTok, all of them jockeying for brands with commerce and content.
The major themes from NewFronts, which are hosted annually by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, revolved around the shifting of ad dollars to streaming video, growing audiences on connected TV, the creator economy, brand safety, and e-commerce.
This week, IAB released a survey of brands and found that most were spending more on connected TV than video on mobile and desktop. In 2020, the brands in the survey spent an average of close to $20 million each on connected TV, up 22% from 2019. Mobile video grew 4% to $17.6 million, and $17.6 million was spent on desktop video ads, up 3%.
Below, a deeper look at the trends emerging from NewFronts:
Living room screen
The shifting in digital video viewing from mobile to the living room screen was on full display in presentations from Amazon, YouTube, Roku and Tubi.
Amazon was perhaps the breakout presenter, joining NewFronts for the first time, and boasting that it now reaches 120 million viewers a month through ad-supported digital video. Amazon has Fire TV, Twitch, IMDb TV, and Prime Video, where it has content deals like the one to stream "Thursday Night Football" starting in 2022.
Amazon rolled out a new self-serve “audience guarantee” product, which takes advantage of all that viewing. Advertisers can order a definitive amount of inventory at set prices through an automated platform, which takes out some of the guesswork usually involved in bidding on digital ads.
YouTube continued to promote how it is growing in connected TV, where it reached 120 million viewers a month. YouTube claimed it accounted for 40% of all ad-supported video streaming, citing Comscore.
Other streaming platforms looked to eliminate some of the obstacles in advertising in the space: Roku wants to help brands create messaging tailor-made to streaming with its new branded content studio, while Tubi is trying to curb the annoyance of repetitive advertising with new ad technology to reduce frequency.
Getting viewers to seamlessly go from watching content to making a purchase is one of the big potential draws to digital video, and in that arena, Amazon is expected to dominate. During its presentation, Amazon promoted how a viewer could watch, say, a commercial for Heinz ketchup on Fire TV, and then add it to an Amazon checkout through the remote or by speaking a command to Alexa, the voice-assistant.
YouTube unveiled its “Brand Extensions,” which are ads that viewers can click to reveal more information on the products and services in commercials.
TikTok also touted the power of commerce on the app, where brands have said they found big sales days through viral moments. The social network called it “community commerce," citing an example from American Eagle, which found success with leggings sales on TikTok.
“A creator with a modest following shared a TikTok wearing ‘Aerie’s’ crossover leggings and suddenly it began appearing in people’s ‘For You’ feed, the product took off, sold out everywhere,” Sophia Hernandez, head of TikTok’s U.S. business marketing, said. “Craig [Brommers], the CMO of American Eagle, told us the leggings sell out every time they restock.”
Condé Nast is also making a push into the creator economy and “shoppable” content. Last year, Condé launched what it called an “influence network” with fashion, beauty, sports and other programming. At NewFronts, Condé said it was growing the network and exploring more e-commerce functionality. “We’re introducing a new slate of innovative live programming, integrating shoppable technology into our video content and expanding the Condé Nast storytelling universe,” the publisher said. Through Conde Nast Shoppable, viewers will be able to click on a product featured in the publisher’s videos, such as clothes or accessories worn by celebrities, and purchase them directly.
The cookie casts a shadow
Advertising identifiers remained an animating force for the industry, even if it was addressed only in passing. Verizon Media, which announced it was acquired by Apollo Global Management the day before its NewFronts pitch, reiterated both its first-party data solution, ConnectID, and its contextual targeting system, Next Gen Identity Solutions. BuzzFeed’s first-party data solution Lighthouse earned itself a passing mention during the digital publisher’s pitch.
Vice Media took a brawnier approach, using part of its NewFronts pitch to publicly denounce ad technology that targets by gender, age and ethnicity as “discriminatory” and “unethical,” all while unveiling a new contextual targeting solution that it says moves marketers away from targeting based on demographics.
Search and discovery
Surfacing content on streaming platforms has been a challenge for consumers who are inundated with programming. To keep viewers engaged — and deliver advertising in a place where people are paying attention — companies from Samsung to Tubi introduced ad units tied to content discovery. Samsung touted its Discovery masthead, which helps surface new content to keep people watching, and showcased its ability to do “full takeover” experiences where the entire screen is dominated by the ad experience. Tubi also highlighted its ability to recommend new content to audiences, while Vizio discussed “Vizio Features,” a data-informed content offering that the TV maker says knows what viewers are watching and can make decisions on the types of content that will resonate with those viewers.
VIzio also showcased ad space on what it called the “Hero Unit,” the biggest banner in the center of Smartcast, the TV operating system installed on its devices. Vizio says the space can be used to display video advertisements that play in the background.
Snapchat, YouTube and TikTok execs talked about the communities of creators who populate those platforms and are increasingly used to bring brands into the content. Snapchat launched a new “creator marketplace” to help facilitate those brand deals. Ultimately, it helps brands connect with top talent on the platform. Snapchat has a new section called Spotlight, which showcases videos from its top users, and is seen as a competitor with TikTok. Meanwhile, TikTok also hyped its creator community, and it also has a creator marketplace, which it launched last year.
“The creator marketplace is an opportunity for brands to connect directly with Snap creators at scale,” said Kenny Mitchell, Snapchat’s chief marketing officer, “to collaborate on content for our community and to drive each other’s business objectives.”