As the NewFronts Begin, 6 Top Execs Discuss Video’s Perils and Promises

Can the marketplace become digital-first?

As the media and marketing ecosystem continues its inexorable shift to a pervasive visual orientation from a text and linear tradition, video in all its myriad forms will only become more important—and not just as a storytelling vehicle but as a huge commercial center as well.

The sixth annual NewFronts kicks off today and for the next two weeks, 34 presenters will queue up their digital video offerings and philosophies for media buyers and planners with the hope that ever more brand dollars will shift their way from traditional destinations.

While the buzz around digital video publishers and platforms is practically audible, the big hurdle questions around measurement, viewability and distribution loom just as large. Some of those are so daunting that a return to television’s tried-and-true models, on showcase during the May 15 upfront week, has been noted.

Adweek, as part of a long-standing NewFronts media partnership with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, convened its annual panel of digital video industry executives to discuss these challenges, as well as the opportunities of data-informed storytelling, social, next-gen platforms like VR and AI, as well as talent.

Anna Bager, IAB’s svp, gm of mobile and video, who oversees the administration of the NewFronts, moderated the conversation, which took place at Adweek’s headquarters in New York on April 17. The panel included: Jen Wong, president of digital and COO, Time Inc.; Nick Shore, chief creative strategist at Astronauts Wanted; Stacy Minero, head of planning/creative agency development at Twitter; David Grant, president of PopSugar Studios; and Rory Brown, president of digital sports outfit Bleacher Report.

Anna Bager, IAB’s svp, gm of mobile and video (who oversees the administration of the Digital Content NewFronts) moderated the conversation.

Anna Bager, svp, gm of mobile and video, IAB: In the last five years, the role of video has changed radically. So what’s mission-critical to make sure your companies keep pace with the ongoing change?

Rory Brown, president, Bleacher Report: Video is where you are going to build brand equity, you’re going to reach people and you’re going to make money. So I think for us at Bleacher Report and a lot of other media companies you’re seeing not just a doubling or tripling down on video, but it’s going to be the key component in a lot of content company businesses for the foreseeable future.

Nick Shore, chief creative strategist, Astronauts Wanted: Mission-critical for us is, who is that new content consumer? What are they looking for? What turns them on? What storylines resonate with them? So yes, there’s the how question—how are they consuming media and where are they consuming it. So what stories are we going to tell them that they haven’t seen before that are going to make them feel excited and willing to come back and be loyal and engaged?

David Grant, president, PopSugar Studios: We’ve always had a very good understanding of our audience and it’s always been focused in young women. But as that audience has moved across platforms, it’s critical for us to understand how our audience wants video on those platforms. We have to continue to have as good of an understanding of our audience on those platforms as we do for our own sites.

Stacy Minero, head of planning/creative agency development, Twitter: Twitter has a similar story. We started as 140 characters, evolved to imagery, premium content and now video, which is over 50 percent of our revenue in terms of what our advertisers invest in. But now we’re at a point where we’re creating premium content experiences through livestreaming partnerships. We livestreamed all three debates and that just exploded on Twitter, because you’ve got the content and the connecting conversation. So we like to say people come for the content, they stay for the conversation.

This story first appeared in the May 1, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.