Jul 21, 2003  •  Post A Comment

This is the time of the year when media buyers find themselves transformed into salesmen. Following the primetime upfront, buyers now must pitch their clients, the advertisers, to agree to spend the money the buyers have already pledged to the networks. It’s a ritual that happens every year, a “dog-and-pony show” that usually ends late in August when the holds either go to order or drop out. “It can last as long as you set up all your meetings and get all your ducks in a row,” said Marc Goldstein, president and CEO of WPP Group’s MindShare North America. “The more clients you have, the longer it takes.”
This year, buyers have some explaining to do. A total of $9.4 billion was committed, and rate increases are up as high as 15 percent. Most marketers have not seen revenue increases in their own businesses anywhere near that level. “The difficult part is benchmarking the upfront against the economy,” said one top media agency buyer.
Some agency executives say advertisers helped drive demand because they significantly increased ad budgets this year. “The money was out there,” said another media buyer who spoke anonymously. “And the networks knew it.”
The question remains: Will the holds go to order? Two years ago the stock market dropped and many holds dropped out. But buyers don’t expect that this year. “Our stuff is all holding strong,” said John Gaffney, of Havas’ Media Planning. Group.
Wayne Friedman contributed to this report.