Linda Yaccarino Calls for ‘Radical Transformation’ in First Response to ANA Proposal

'We can go even further' than shifting upfront calendar, says NBCU ad sales chief

linda yaccarino
TV ad sales chiefs had been silent publicly on the ANA's proposal prior to Linda Yaccarino's letter. Virginia Sherwood/NBCUniversal
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Key insight:

TV ad sales executives have been publicly quiet since the Association of National Advertisers called for a shift to a calendar year upfront last week as part of what the group deemed “transformative” changes to the media ecosystem.

That changed this morning as Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal’s chairman of advertising and partnerships, became the first TV ad sales chief to publicly respond to the ANA’s June 10 report. But instead of addressing the upfront proposal directly, Yaccarino said “we can go even further” than shifting calendars and called for “radical transformation” in the industry in a note sent this morning to clients, agency and tech partners.

In the note, called “Transformation is a shared responsibility,” Yaccarino discussed the need to overhaul the industry in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the nationwide protests against racism and police brutality:

“This moment demands radical transformation, and as companies are changing messaging or shifting trading calendars, we can go even further. This is the moment to question not just when we do business, but how we do business, at every level—because transformation is more than the private sector’s response to this moment, it’s our long-term responsibility,” Yaccarino wrote, continuing, “we need to do more as a marketing community to address our most deep-seated legacy problems, especially within our industry.”

While her letter doesn’t include the words “upfront” or “ANA,” she is specifically referring to the ANA’s proposal in the above paragraph, which links to the ANA’s report.

Yaccarino’s solution: “Now is the time for marketers to prioritize equity and inclusion, while also committing to a new open marketplace built on trust, radical transparency and meaningful collaboration. Just imagine how opening up training, technology and insights across the marketing industry could simultaneously accelerate lasting transformation and real economic recovery.”

Yaccarino doesn’t specially address the ANA’s upfront proposal, but NBCUniversal—like almost every other media company—has been clear with advertisers that it will operate on whatever timetable its clients would prefer in what will be a staggered upfront marketplace, with clients and categories engaging in talks at various times during the second half of the year.

Mark Marshall, NBCU president of advertising sales and partnerships, reiterated this at the company’s non-upfront event for marketers last month, when he noted that whether clients are interested in a broadcast or calendar upfront, “regardless of how you want to partner, we’re ready.” And like several other media companies, NBCU is already engaged in upfront talks with some of its clients.

But the ANA is looking for a more official upfront shift, from the traditional September-August broadcast upfront to a January-December calendar upfront.

“The marketing community must revisit the media buying environment and develop changes that will accommodate the new reality forced upon us,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice in a statement last week.

No media company had commented publicly on the ANA report prior to Yaccarino’s letter this morning.

While her letter was short on specifics or next steps, NBCUniversal is planning to host a creativity summit later this summer to discuss opening up more resources, as well as a partnership/development summit and another measurement summit.

As part of this new effort, the NBCU advertising and sales training teams are working on building marketing training programs to scale industrywide, including sales excellence and diversity and inclusion programs.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.