Upfronts Will Bring Increased Conversation but Needs a Refresh to How It Handles Data

Measurement will need to be fixed

Advisory Board member Steven Wolfe Pereira shared his thoughts on this year's upfronts. Encantos Media
Headshot of B. Bonin Bough

Author, consultant and TV host, Bonin Bough, is our Adweek Advisory Board chairman. He will be spotlighting three Advisory Board members per month on relevant industry news and trends.

I spoke with some of our Advisory Board members about this year’s upfronts and what they thought some of the challenges might be this year. Largely, it appears that the challenges this year are going to be around measurement, effectiveness and whether TV is a dead medium.

For large brands, it is a time to rethink how these things fit in the ecosystem. They can learn a lot from the fast-paced growth of DTC businesses who, despite being digital-first, are now buying outdoor and TV. Why? Because they understand that buying across the entire ecosystem—true connections planning—is still the most effective way to build a strong brand.

Steven Wolfe Pereira, CEO and co-founder at Encantos, shares his thoughts on the annual upfronts and where we might see the most changes.

Bonin Bough: What do you think is the most important issue going into this year’s upfronts?
Steven Wolfe Pereira: I think the most important issue going into this year’s upfronts is really trying to understand first-party data tied to content. I feel like this is really one of the macro-themes that you are seeing where we heard Marc Pritchard recently talking about this at the AMA media conference. You hear all of the moves where people are bringing this in-house. You saw Publicis acquiring Epsilon for $4 billion.

All of this is about really trying to understand your customer. I think we are now at a point where the upfront is just a marketplace mechanism to secure inventory, but that’s no longer the game. The game is how do you actually understand customers and use that first-party data to understand your customers.

In what way(s) will this year’s negations differ from last year’s?
On the positive side, you see the continued demand for premium content. Certainly, all of the large suppliers and different networks are shrinking available inventory. It’s a supply and demand game. They are making really smart moves there so that they have more demand for their inventory.

On the flip side, I think that many folks are deciding to take things in-house. That has to impact the negation strategy. You see huge players saying “a large percent of my media budget is going to digital. A large percent of digital is either programmatic or biddable.” So, what now are you going to have to play with? I think you will see, on the one extreme, more people saying, “TV matters, and we need that to drive business.” But on the flip side, how do you really do the upfronts in a different way given that people are taking things in-house. I think that actually is going to put more direct conversations between buyers and sellers. Marketers and networks talking directly. I think there is a question mark for agencies.

If you could change one thing about the upfronts, what would it be and why?
I really think that the whole measurement conversation is a joke. We still are living in a world where certain things that are digital—you talk about the issues that Facebook and Google have had—but at the end of the day, digital is more directly measurable. We still have antiquated ways of measuring TV.

We have a measuring issue. Once you have everyone making their own measuring standards, do you really have a common currency that everyone can trade on? So, I feel like we are taking baby steps toward mass personalization and bespoke measurement. Everyone will have different measurement standards, but I think we are fooling ourselves if we think measurement is remotely closed to being fixed.


Bonin Bough, a former digital executive at Mondelez International, is author of the book Txt Me and host of CNBC's Cleveland Hustles. He is also a member of the Adweek Advisory Board.
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