TV Upfront

Changes, Fast and Slow: Horizon's Bill Koenigsberg on the Upfronts, Viewability and More

If you Committed all Your Dollars then that Kind of Ties Your Hands in Terms of Reacting in Real Time, Said Mr. Koenigsberg

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Bill Koenigsberg
Bill Koenigsberg

Horizon CEO Bill Koenigsberg told Ad Age in 2011 that he thought the upfronts should move later in the year. "To commit in May or June six to eight months out, in terms of clients already knowing what their marketing position is going to be and what their true fall year planning is going to be, is quite premature," he said then.

Now with more data to inform real-time targeting, the concept of a such an early commitment, although necessary in some scenarios, is even more flawed, according to Mr. Koenigsberg. The boss of the last-standing independent media agency of its size talked to Ad Age again about making commitments at the upfronts and newfronts, as well as other issues impacting the business, such as ad viewability online. Our conversation has been lightly edited.

Advertising Age: What will be the biggest change at the upfronts this year?

Mr. Koenigsberg: This year will be a continued evolution of what we saw last year, except it will happen at a much faster pace. A lot of upfront discussions are going to be fueled by data-infused decisions. We have a different currency. We're no longer buying gross ratings points; we're buying audiences. There's incredible technology that enables us to analyze every single program out in the universe minute by minute and how these individual shows perform against a significant amount of data inputs.

A second change will be continued multiplatform deals -- integrated deals that will include more platforms owned by the cable networks and media community.

Advertising Age: Do you predict that these insights will lead to more or less spending with the networks?

Mr. Koenigsberg: They will drive either more spending or less spending, but it depends on what the data shows.

Advertising Age: What impact will programmatic, automated ad buying online have on TV's upfront deals?

Mr. Koenigsberg: The yellow flashing light we continue to see is more money moving to programmatic -- the siphoning of traditional dollars from traditional upfront marketing as well as more money moving to other content producers. Amazon, Conde Nast, Yahoo and the AOLs of the world are supporting first-run premium content.

Advertising Age: Do the NewFronts, the upfront for digital video, still make sense? Are you planning on making commitments?

Mr. Koenigsberg: The only reason to commit is if you're committing to something you think is a scarce commodity, and if you don't you risk losing out. I'd say that we're probably going to take more of a wait-and-see attitude. If there are unique opportunities we absolutely will commit. There are more choices today than there used to be. We're now in the world of real-time marketing. If you committed all your dollars then that kind of ties your hands in terms of reacting in real-time. There also will be dollars that are put aside for later flexibility in the marketplace as well.

Advertising Age: What's your position in the viewability debate, where some are pushing for every ad impression sold to meet the industry definition of "viewable" and other say it's too soon?

Mr. Koenigsberg: The effort between the IAB, ANA and 4As on viewability has taken the debate front and center in terms of the fact we can't continue to place advertising time and get charged for impressions that aren't viewed. The Media Rating Council is now doing a very good job trying to accredit entities out there verifying viewability. The problem is there are a multitude of technology companies doing verification, so there's inconsistency in the reporting of viewability. There are still a significant amount of impressions that aren't viewed. Each agency is dealing with that landscape in a different way based on how they monitor, or how they hold publishers accountable in terms of what they pay for and what they don't pay for.

Advertising Age: Is it too soon to say you can provide 100% viewability?

Mr. Koenigsberg: No one can say that because of the tech problems on the back-end. We can get from 50% to 60% to 70% and possibly even 75%.

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