IAB May Take Over NewFronts

Digitas looking for operational help, perceived objectivity, per sources

Digitas was way out in front of the Web video content revolution when, in 2008, it launched the first NewFronts event—a conference designed to bring together a new breed of creators with brands and digital buyers. By 2012, the Digital Content NewFronts had morphed into a nearly two-week event headlined by the biggest names in the business, including YouTube, AOL, Yahoo and Hulu.

But the NewFronts may have become too big for one agency to handle. According to sources, Digitas is in talks with the Interactive Advertising Bureau to take over operational responsibilities for the 2013 NewFronts, which are scheduled to kick off during the week of April 29. The talks are preliminary, but the thinking is that the IAB would handle administration duties, like scheduling and managing the events’ Web marketing (financials have not been discussed, and most of the major NewFronts were not profit-driven conferences like the IAB's Mixx event, but rather served as major marketing showcases for media brands like YouTube).

Theoretically, any media companies looking to participate in the NewFronts would have to go through the IAB, though each partner would program its own NewFront. Plus, Digitas would also continue to program its own NewFront event.

Beside alleviating the many logistical challenges presented by running the NewFronts—which this year included 19 separate events—Digitas is likely talking to the IAB in order to eliminate any perception that the NewFronts are a Digitas-only event. While the NewFronts were always conceived as a means of rallying the industry around the growth of original Web video content, there have been complaints by other major agency executives that it may not exactly be a great idea for one agency to play such a central role (think, for example, how that would play out if the TV upfronts were "brought to you by Horizon Media").

Plus, there was some grumbling last year among the top media partners that the NewFronts list of participants had been watered down by too many smaller media companies. The hope is that the IAB may be more selective in its acceptance process.

Reps from both the IAB and Digitas declined to comment for this story.