Shorter Upfront Presentations a Big Hit

May 21, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Shorter was better during last week’s upfront marathon.

Ad buyers and network executives, who have questioned the usefulness of the glitzy, star-studded million-dollar schedule presentations in recent years, said this year the networks struck the right balance between delivering information, entertainment, shrimp and an open bar.

Marc Goldstein, CEO of GroupM North America, said the short presentations were effective.

“Did they deliver their message? I think they did,” he said.

“We showed [buyers] this industry can do things in a businesslike way,” said Fox ad sales president Jon Nesvig.

While buyers cheered the shorter presentations, they unanimously said they didn’t want the networks to take the next step by making them disappear altogether. They said the presentations serve a useful purpose by letting the networks meet with their clients, understand their strategies and get a feel for the programming.

“It’s a useful business meeting,” said Donna Speciale, president of investment and activation at MediaVest USA. “They gave us what we wanted.”

Fox’s presentation on Thursday, the last one for the week, lasted barely an hour. That was quite a change from the network’s long, overcrowded event last year, widely considered a debacle.

A year ago, tightened security due to a last-minute threat made it hard for guests to get into Fox’s presentation. Once they were inside, the room was hot, the speeches too long, the jokes too raunchy.

Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori vowed to shake things up by keeping the presentation sleek and fast-moving, with a “24”-style clock ticking down the hours. Mission accomplished.

“Fox hit a home run,” Mr. Goldstein said.

Other network executives started their presentations by promising they’d be briefer than in past years. and they by and large kept their word.

In order to keep presentations short, the networks barely mentioned daytime and news. Most cut their sports presentations because buyers are already familiar with the NFL and NASCAR.

To be sure, there was still some glitz. NBC’s football announcers threw footballs into the balcony at Radio City Music Hall. The cast of “Ugly Betty” sang and danced at ABC’s. ABC also finished its upfront with a round of bingo with the hosts of “National Bingo Night.”

Once upon a time, networks showed all of their pilots in their entirety to ad buyers during their upfront presentations. Buyers came in for breakfast, stayed through lunch and had cocktails afterward.

Now if a network tries to show one whole pilot, the audience groans, one ad sales executive said.

With the networks playing beat-the-clock, one veteran buyer was rethinking the calendar, wondering if the upfronts still need to take up four days.


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