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Chicago a shortcut to Mad Ave.

Jan 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

This year it’s not enough for syndication sellers to make their pitches to Madison Avenue; the road to syndication-upfront advertising bounty goes first to Chicago’s Wacker Drive.
Almost two weeks before the Syndicated Network Television Association’s Fall Season Preview in Manhattan, at which the trade organization’s eight member companies will make their new- and returning-program presentations to the top Madison Avenue agencies, most of those very same syndicators, along with other major players, will be in the Windy City on a similar sales mission.
And the syndicators will be making their case first to Starcom Worldwide, arguably the single largest buyer of syndicated television advertising, which is hosting a Syndication Day event, actually a day and a half long, on the 21st floor of its West Wacker Drive offices.
The premiere event of the syndication world’s run-up to the upfront was expected to be the SNTA’s first national syndication marketplace in Manhattan, set for Feb. 25 to 26. The SNTA, headed by ad-sales veteran Gene DeWitt, is a trade organization comprising many, but not all, of the major sellers in syndicated television.
But Starcom’s Syndication Day, set for Feb. 11 and 12, will be stealing some of SNTA’s thunder, and that’s no accident.
Powerhouse Starcom is expected to be the only non-New York-based agency participating in the SNTA event, and this is the fifth year that Starcom itself has hosted a syndication event in Chicago. The insider view from the shore of Lake Michigan is that SNTA is an organization focused so intently on Madison Avenue that the agency world beyond Manhattan’s borders is being excluded.
In past years the event in Chicago took place later in the month of February. Its earlier timing this year, according to insiders, is partly intended to redress that perceived SNTA New York focus.
Another, hitherto unpublicized, SNTA-sponsored event, still in the planning stages, is also intended to redress that perceived focus by calling on all the agencies in the Second City: SNTA syndicators may take their presentations back to the Windy City en masse one more time in advance of the upfront to make their pitch directly to the other agencies headquartered in Chicago, according to insiders.
Syndication’s future
Starcom’s event, also presaging the 2003-04 season upfront, will feature a lunch-hour panel, including agency executives, clients and sellers, that will discuss such topics as where the syndication industry is going, how the syndication business will grow, what the new programming and advertising integration opportunities in syndication are and so forth.
The event is, of course, intended to focus primarily on the various sellers’ presentations, expected to run about a half-hour each. Among them are expected to be pitches from 20th Century Fox, Buena Vista, King World, MGM/NBC, Paramount, Sony/Columbia, Tribune, Universal and Warner Bros. There is also expected to be an unwired network presentation and presentations from smaller players.
Starcom clients will be in attendance, too, and that means Kellogg Co., Sara Lee, Hallmark, Nintendo and the U.S. Army will be out in force.
Approximately 150 people are expected to attend from the Chicago agency and its clients, and each vendor is likely to bring two or three salespeople to the Starcom event.
“This will force [SNTA] out of New York and force them to focus on Chicago,” said a Windy City agency insider, dismissing the SNTA’s own proposed Chicago gathering. “Shame on them for not having done something in Chicago already.”
SNTA’s eight member companies represent about 80 percent of all syndication dollars, according to the organization. Its members are Buena Vista, The Heritage Network, King World, Paramount, Universal Domestic Television, Tribune Entertainment, Twentieth Television and Warner Bros.
The SNTA Manhattan event will focus on presentations, and no panels are scheduled. It will begin with a post-breakfast industry overview and include an evening reception. SNTA officials were not available to discuss their Chicago plans.