Fox Networks Group’s New Ad Sales Chief Takes Center Stage to Shake Up Traditional Ad Buys

Prime-time programming ceded the upfront spotlight to Fox Sports

After less than a week on the job as Fox Networks Group's ad sales chief, Joe Marchese faced buyers at the annual upfront presentation.
Frank Micelotta/Fox

If buyers thought Fox Networks Group’s new ad sales chief, Joe Marchese, wouldn’t have had the job long enough to make waves during the upfront presentation, they were mistaken.

Marchese, who was just named president of advertising revenue Wednesday—ending an eight-month search—was front and center at Fox’s event Monday afternoon, unveiling several new initiatives in an attempt to shake up traditional ad buys.

“This is one heck of a third day at work,” said Marchese, who found himself onstage at New York’s Beacon Theatre, not once but twice. He warned buyers of an “advertising subprime crisis,” where brands advertising on digital platforms are at the mercy of “unviewable ads and unsavory content.” To make his point that online ads aren’t effective without the sound, he silently moved his mouth onstage.

Marchese added, “The subprime advertising market is dragging us all down.” (Earlier in the day, his NBCUniversal counterpart Linda Yaccarino waged a similar assault on digital advertising.)

Among Marchese’s announcements: Fox is teaming with NBC to use analytics data from Moat and will incorporate Moat’s video quality score across all linear and digital platforms. Marchese said Fox will guarantee against Moat’s video quality score for the Fox portions of any campaign that implements Moat campaignwide.

Fox is rolling out Up//Lift from True[X], a brand lift optimization system that involves sentiment data and machine learning algorithms. For example, Marchese said, brands can use sentiment data gathered from Up//Lift on Fox Sports Go during 1 p.m. NFL games to help a car company determine which creative to run in the 4 p.m. games.

Fox Networks Group is also working to reduce ad load, said Marchese. FX will no longer be selling standard commercials across digital and on-demand viewing, relying instead on brand partner messaging. Other improvements include having a single sponsor for on-demand programming. Fox has also created a new integrated marketing agency, All City, that will help brands develop branded content.

The goal of his team’s new initiatives, said Marchese, is “making your brands heroes.”

Beyond Marchese’s announcements, Fox’s biggest upfront spotlight was on Fox Sports, which helped power Fox to No. 2 among 18- to 49-year-olds last season thanks to the Super Bowl and the World Series. So, long before Fox Networks Group chairmen and CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman hit the stage, Fox Sports talent like Joe Buck, Jimmy Johnson and Troy Aikman made their pitches to advertisers: “All of the games that matter are on Fox.”

To celebrate the Big 10 football games that will now be airing on Fox Sports, the event included a lengthy video featuring University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, followed by marching bands and cheerleaders swarming the stage and the aisles.

The Fox Sports portion of the upfront event included a somewhat horrifying, ill-advised production number in which Fox Sports talent, including Johnson, danced and lip-synced to a spoof of Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic,” to celebrate Fox Sports’ 24 seasons at No. 1.

Eventually, Walden and Newman did take the stage to share Fox’s new fall schedule with buyers, but not before Seth MacFarlane crooned a song about advertising. The lyrics included: “But if you’re thinkin’ ads on YouTube/Are the way to reach the kids/Just remember your commercials/Will be shown on ISIS vids.”

In a more successful production number, Fox teamed the casts of Empire and Star—both of which will air on Wednesday nights— for a joint, lively musical performance that culminated in both groups teaming up for “Mo Money, Mo Problems.”

The presentation’s structure was so different this year that Fox didn’t even talk about its biggest new show, Marvel’s The Gifted, until an hour into the presentation. “There is a lot of excitement about this show,” said Walden, who added that the trailer had amassed 7 million views in less than a day.

Fox also shared trailers for MacFarlane’s new series, The Orville, which played like a comedic Star Trek.

New X-Files-esque comedy Ghosted featured good comic chemistry between stars Craig Robinson and Adam Scott.

Fox’s midseason drama, The Resident, seems at first glance to be a standard medical drama.

Fox’s most promising trailer might have been LA to Vegas, which features a fun comic turn from Dylan McDemott as the pilot of a no-frills airliner that shuttles people from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back.

The room’s energy was flagging later in the presentation, causing an exasperated Gordon Ramsey to shout, “Jesus Christ, you’re all asleep!” He passed out cookies to the entire audience, which did help them perk up.

And while Fox’s upfront presentation was bumpier than last year’s, during which the audience seemed to love every trailer shown, it did end on a high note with a performance of “Seasons of Love” to commemorate the live musical version of the hit Broadway show Rent, which Fox will air next year.