Why the Newfronts Still Aren't the Upfronts

Digital Players Want TV Dollars, But Could Learn Something From TV Sales

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Newfronts? No thanks.

Newfront newbie? You can learn a thing or two from how the TV folks do it.

This year's blitz of Newfronts are about to get underway as digital and even print-media sellers showcase their wares to make a play for TV dollars. Joining the likes of Yahoo, YouTube and AOL, who made splashy pitches to buyers last year, will be Conde Nast, Dow Jones and (in a separate effort weeks before the others) Gannett.

At Vevo's NYC Newfront event last year, (l) Vevo EVP David Kohl, singer John Legend, Vevo President Rio Caraeff and SVP Michael Cerda.
At Vevo's NYC Newfront event last year, (l) Vevo EVP David Kohl, singer John Legend, Vevo President Rio Caraeff and SVP Michael Cerda.

But even as buyers prepare for the events scheduled for April 29 to May 3, they have some advice for Newfronters: Unless you follow through, don't bother.

TV buyers at some big media agencies told Ad Age that unlike upfront players NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS, the digital sellers went silent after the initial presentation, making it difficult to spend money with those players.

"Last year's Newfronts were a great way of solidifying the perception across the ad industry that there is a significant amount of money being put into original programming by most of these major web partners," said Kris Magel, exec VP-national broadcast at Interpublic Group's Initiative. But in the months that passed, he said, clients might inquire about content from digital players that reached young men or a strong female audience, and the answers weren't always at hand, because the digital companies didn't appear to do much publicity around the shows.

"There was an absence of discussion and discourse about it through the year," said Mr. Magel, echoing a sentiment expressed by other senior buyers.

Part of the problem may be the "silos" that still exist in the process of buying ads. Just because you tell the person who buys digital inventory at an agency doesn't mean that the person overseeing TV allocation -- the pool where digital players want to draw dollars from -- hears about it.

Not all buyers agree that the Newfronters don't apply enough of the old hard-sell tactics. "My experience has not been that experience," said Christine Merrifield, president-video investment and activation, at Publicis Groupe's MediaVest USA, adding that she "speaks fairly often to major people."

The idea behind the Newfronts, of course, is to lay claim to dollars first. That's the logic Gannett applied in hosting its GannettFront on March 5 to talk up its reach among local communities as well as video assets. While the company considered taking part in the Newfront, it also realized sprawling ad deals that encompass many different types of media tend to require long lead time, and it wanted to get its message out without being surrounded by other pitchers, said Maryam Banikarim, VP-chief marketing officer of Gannett. "It just seemed to make sense to go as early as you could."

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