From Aaron Frank, SVP Media, Insights, & Marketing, BEN
What TV networks do you expect to announce some surprises during this year’s Upfronts?
The surprises have already started to happen, even before the Upfronts have begun! First, Netflix announced that they’ll begin offering an ad-supported subscription tier. Then, both Peacock and Amazon emphasized virtual product placement offerings during their Newfronts presentations. As viewers continue to prefer streaming services over linear television, I’d expect the Upfront presentations to emphasize more of the same: opportunities to get inside the content in order to reach ad skippers and ad avoiders, and targeting opportunities that offer brands the ability to reach cord nevers and cord cutters through streaming and connected TV ads. Even as current non-ad supported streamers like Netflix explore offering ad-supported tiers, it will be important for brands to find ways to reach every household watching a show they love – whether that’s on traditional linear, ad-supported streaming, or on a platform or subscription tier that allows them to avoid ads altogether.
As the ad industry is approaching its first upfronts with no officially accredited measurement solution, what do you advise clients use from a measurement perspective?
Clients should be searching for measurement methodologies that allow them to easily compare and evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of different media channels – and they shouldn’t settle for just upper funnel metrics like impressions or views. There has been great progress in the ability for direct attribution to provide data on everything from lift in retail sales to spikes in web traffic to increased in-store foot traffic. These methodologies have been available in the TV ad measurement space for a while but are now being applied in innovative ways to measure product placements inside TV or film and brand integration in influencer content. Data is also now able that allows brands to include investments in influencer content and product placement within their marketing mix models (MMMs). Clients should be utilizing the same KPIs to measure each of their media channels, and seeking out vendors and solutions that can help them get lower-funnel metrics for all of their investments.
While Nielsen data will remain the currency of record for the majority of this year’s upfront negotiations, all of the major media companies are running their own tests with their own preferred vendors. How do you think this will impact the industry?
The gold standard for our industry should be a set of unified metrics that allow marketers to more accurately understand multi-channel reach. At the end of the day, we as an industry need a single solution that will help brands make buys with greater confidence and transparency. A collection of methodologies – each with its own benefits and shortcomings – isn’t a long-term solution. While these individual tests will certainly be informative, the major media companies going their separate ways won’t solve the measurement problems that are concerning to advertisers.
How is content driving commerce and how is that impacting the deliverables brands are asking for from media partners in this years’ upfront buys?
Content has the ability to accomplish something that is a struggle for traditional ads: cultural relevance. Just over these past six months, brands like Peloton and Adidas have experienced the power of being inside the content first-hand. During the Newfronts this year, Amazon mentioned that a CPG early adopter of its technology saw a 6.9% lift in favorability and 14.7% boost in purchase intent. The challenge for media partners and brands is to find measurement solutions that can adequately capture the impact of these integrations and translate them into bottom line sales. Technologies such as shoppable ads are one potential solution. Direct attribution is another. I anticipate technologies that help marketers get into content and understand the impact of those investments to take center stage at the Upfronts.
What technology innovations are impacting the TV upfronts most this year and how?
In addition to direct attribution and shoppable ads mentioned above, I think artificial intelligence (AI) will have a great impact for advertisers this year. AI is one of those loose terms out there – it can mean everything… or nothing! But one of the most difficult challenges for both media companies and advertisers is knowing which of the new shows that will be announced during the Upfronts are going to be hits, and which will be flops. AI is helping take the guesswork out of this challenge. BEN is using AI to predict both the initial performance of new shows announced during the Upfronts and the long-tail impressions those shows will receive. Our AI outperforms even our human experts, accurately predicting 8 of the top 10 new broadcast shows for each of the last 2 years, and 10 out of 10 for the year prior. We’re just scratching the surface of what AI can accomplish in this space yet anything that helps marketers and media networks make smarter investments should be at the forefront of our discussions.