New Media Woos Upfront Dollars

Apr 3, 2006  •  Post A Comment

By Kris Oser and Abbey Klaassen

Advertising Age

This will likely be the first year that many marketers distribute upfront dollars among multiple platforms.

Results of a poll of marketers at last month’s Association of National Advertisers TV Ad Forum about whether the TV upfront should now include cinema, online and other media had 37 percent answering yes, 4 percent saying they weren’t sure, and 59 percent saying no.

Now, weeks before the TV upfront market kicks off, other media are trying to grab their share of the TV dollars by telling buyers they’re holding their own “upfronts.”

It’s not a new ploy, but this year the argument that marketers should be looking elsewhere to park their TV budgets might actually resonate, as money can shift to other, more measurable channels.

Upfronts-which in the online world are defined as anytime you’re selling inventory in advance-are practiced by major portals AOL, Yahoo and MSN, as well as in sectors such as auto specialty sites Edmunds.com and KBB.com (Kelley Blue Book). Other video-rich sites, including news purveyors and sites devoted to showing video clips, also find themselves selling large swaths of inventory early in the year. Cinema ad sellers are also jumping in with upfront events.

The Heavy Approach

Take Heavy.com. The laddie-oriented site, which serves up jokey, shocking, gross, sexy and just plain goofy video clips, much of it user-generated, for an audience of mostly 18-to-34-year old males, is launching an upfront this spring to tout its slate of six new shows. The programs include “The Massive Mating Game,” a dating game played with cellphones, and “The Manly-Man Games,” an Olympics for the ordinary guy. Heavy executives will call on media agencies during the TV upfronts.

“They are calling it an upfront, but it’s really just a way to get people to buy inventory early [at a time when] traditional buyers are trying to get the most bang for their investments,” said Eric Valk Peterson, VP and media director for Agency.com’s iTraffic.

Screenvision, one of two players in the cinema advertising space with almost 14,000 theater screens, hosted an upfront event in March that included a panel discussion on the state of the film industry. But more of their business, they find, is done on a calendar-year basis, leading them to consider moving their upfront to the fall.

“Cinema is speaking the same language as broadcast TV now,” said Jason Brown, senior VP of ad sales for Screenvision. “We estimate and post off of Nielsen, we’re in the IMS planning systems and we’re moving into developing engagement metrics. It’s a great way to extend the broadcast week.”