Media panelists assess post-attack ad outlook

Sep 24, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Uncertainty seems to define the near-term future of the TV ad market, according to a number of prominent media executives.
The “concept of conservative fiscal management” will be “taken to a much higher power than it might have been,” said Marc Goldstein, president, national broadcast and programming, Mindshare North America. Furthermore, expect to see “much more short-term thinking by companies even into the first quarter and beyond,” he said.
Added Mel Berning, president, U.S. broadcast, MediaVest, “Most of our clients have agreed that entertainment programming is an appropriate environment at this point.”
The two executives, plus Bill Cella, chairman, Magna Global USA; and Peggy Green, executive VP, director, national broadcast, Zenith Media USA, were members of a panel moderated by Timothy McAuliff, president and CEO, Petry Media Corp., at the season’s first International Radio and Television Society Foundation Newsmaker Luncheon last Thursday at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City.
“I’d like to think corporate America will step forward and put some money into the fourth quarter,” Mr. Goldstein said, pointing out that news events will require a “significant number of sustaining hours” by the networks.
How reality programming will fare in the wake of the terrorist attacks also was a subject of debate. “We had the most realistic event in our history,” Ms. Green said. Seen in that light, it was difficult to care about “Big Brother,” she said. “It’s not just reality. What [are] we as Americans going to want to watch on television? Will it be a very sweet movie that’s not confrontational or will it be dramas that make you think?”
What is inappropriate now varies from client to client, Mr. Goldstein said. “Every client has a different line in the sand.”
“The really interesting question for the new season,” Mr. Berning said, “is what are the numbers going to be, and are viewership patterns going to change? Are people going to look to television for a little different kind of fare?”
Ms. Green said it was a “very shaky marketplace right now.” The scatter market in particular will suffer in the present post-attack circumstance, she said.
While the impact of the terrorist attacks was Topic A at the IRTS luncheon, Topic B was the upfront. This was the year that the “negotiating process returned to one of normalcy, to one I was accustomed to growing up in this business,” Mr. Goldstein said. Rather than simply throwing dollars at the networks, this was the year that “we looked at everything … with a much finer eye,” factoring in not only the advertiser’s target audience but flight dates and secondary demographics, he said.
It was the year of the cross-platform deal, Ms. Green said. In the future, she said, “It’s not going to be the daypart marketplace or the vendor marketplace. It’s going to be the cross-platform marketplace. … This year has taught that lesson.”
Cross-platform deals also affected the linear nature of the upfront, in which syndication deals are followed by broadcast network deals and so forth, Ms. Green said. This time, content drove the deals, and syndication in particular got hurt in the upfront because the “big guys” went first, she said.
In the new world of consolidation and cross-platform deals, what’s important is “how many categories you represent,” Ms. Green said-for example, auto companies, telecommunications companies and national restaurant chains. In a marketplace of categories, if your agency represents six to eight of the top 10 categories, “then you will know this marketplace,” she said.
Several of the agency executives agreed that some ad-supported cable networks had faced cost-per-thousand rollbacks despite ratings increases. Two of the panelists cited Court TV as an example of an improved network that hadn’t been rewarded in the marketplace. The reason? “In this marketplace, a lot of it was about the past [three or four years],” Mr. Cella said. “This year, and I hate to say it, but it wasn’t about the programming, it was about the number,” he said, referring to CPMs.
The luncheon which drew a near-capacity audience of 350, was held just nine days after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
“We let the audience dictate” whether to go ahead with the event, said Joyce Tudryn, president of the IRTS. The small number of pre-event cancellations and the need to “show resilience” convinced IRTS to proceed, Ms. Tudryn said.
The event began with a moment of silence and was devoid of much of the good-natured banter and genial joking that usually characterize such industry gatherings.