John Muszynski: Prescient Upfront Observer Comments on 2012 Upfront

By Jack Myers TomorrowToday Archives

In 2006, when most industry pundits were claiming the Upfront was dead, John Muszynski was saying this: "I'm not just looking at television. I'm looking at the consumer and I'm going to move my dollars to the consumer. Don't expect me to have TV budgets. I have video budgets, and if you don't want to provide video opportunities outside of television, you're not going to get the same dollars that you got before." (http://bit.ly/K33KVK )

Those words are even more relevant today than they were in 2006, and John, while acknowledging he is surprised how accurate he was in assessing where things were going, is also "sad we are in the same place now. The consumer has moved faster than the rest of us. Marketers tend to move slower than consumers. We are in a video marketplace and consumers look at it as such."

John, the Chief Investment Officer of SMGX (Starcom Media Group Exchange), claims he "is really excited about this year's Upfront," (his 31st) and is "eager to get a feel for how broadcast networks and major cablers will deal with the new landscape. Although producing great content is still the main goal, it's not just about that. It's a tough landscape to manage. We recognize the industry is getting there quickly, but we as marketers need to take advantage of the buzz and social expression that's happening in real time and put it to work for advertisers. That's the next phase of taking advantage of technology."

John is "hoping we will hear from broadcasters on how they are dealing with the new advertising realities that consumers are experiencing. Audiences are consuming media differently – and it's not just because of different options that are available. Many are using two screens while watching one show. How are programmers going to take advantage of this engagement period and extend it to the consumer as well as the advertiser? There's a lot of focus is on the two-screen experience for consumers but I haven't seen many good models for advertisers. In this year's Upfronts, I hope we hear at least some conversation about how they are thinking about it."

John also offers advice to the networks that are packaging network plus online inventory. "If they are combining digital and network inventory to sell their digital properties and it's a way to get a bigger share through packaging, I can do it on my own. If they are looking at unique ways for consumers and advertisers to get more value out of the tremendous content and we can improve the interaction of consumers with our advertisers, I'm all for it."

As he looks at the nuts and bolts of this year's Upfront market, Muszynski says, "with the economy today and the squeeze marketers are under, investors are looking to follow the consumer and find ways of delivering consumers in an efficient manner. Marketers can't be expected to pay increases. We are having a tougher time getting a handle on budgets this year. Decisions are being made on scatter budgets in almost real time. It all comes down to clients wanting to know what's around the corner before they commit their money. They're reluctant to make commitments but they also understand the benefits of participating in the Upfront."

Acknowledging that this position is the pre-Upfront norm for agency executives, John points to changes in the approaches agency investors are taking this year compared to past years (a point also made at a recent IRTS breakfast by Kris Magel of Initiative, Mike Rosen of SMG, and Dave Cohen of Universal McCann). "For the longest time we looked at supply and demand as market drivers. But if you look at the equation properly, there was a psychology of the marketplace… a sense that advertisers still needed broadcast and major cable networks. Today, it's no longer about [broadcast and] cable, but about the right networks and right programs. It's not only about full episode players for online video, but there's a wealth of professionally produced short form videos. With YouTube, Xbox, Hulu and other options, there are more choices at scale this year than past years. We need to look at more of these options, not just for cost efficiency, but to follow the consumer. In 2006 we wanted to do those things but there were limited realistic scale opportunities."

In the 2006 Adweek interview, John was asked what sticks out most in his mind in terms of changes in consumer behavior. His prescient response: "Social expression. To me most of this stuff is all about social expression and consumers being able to express themselves and interact with others who are expressing themselves. That to me is a real big push area right now." In 2012, he points out, "advertisers are more prepared to follow these trends."

This week's broadcast and cable Upfront presentations are competing for attention with a strangely scheduled Internet Week and the continuing buzz generated by two weeks of successful Digital Newfront presentations. As the Upfront marketplace unfolds over the next several weeks and even months, Jack Myers Media Business Report will follow our traditional rule of going silent on Upfront progress, as I have done for the past several years. Once all the deals are done and the Upfronts are concluded, I will issue my annual Upfront reports on total dollar volume and cost-per-thousand estimates. While I don't expect digital video to significantly alter Upfront dynamics this year, it's clear the marketplace is restructuring and John Muszynski's 2006 vision of a video marketplace is finally a reality.

Watch for my new book: Hooked Up: A New Generation's Surprising Take on Sex, Politics and Hooked+UpSaving the World. Coming in July.

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