In horse racing lingo, we're past the three-quarter pole and ready for the stretch run of this first round of "Newfront" events, organized by a consortium of online media players and coordinated through Digitas. No matter what, give Digitas credit for, in very short time, establishing a New York showcase for these ventures to advance their cause with more advertiser support. Get adjusted to this being on everyone's calendar next year and beyond, with the roster of players expanding each cycle.
We'll rate many of these events in coming columns, starting next time, but for now, here's a quick roundup of what's working and not working so far.
A variety of content on display. With rare exception, there's plenty of programming to see at these events, the production values are solid, and the creative talent involves everyone from cream-of-the-crop TV producer/directors to cutting-edge newbies. A wide-open pool.
The advertiser/agency community is fired up. Every event I've attended has drawn capacity crowds, in some cases to the point where both advertiser/agency people and journalists have been turned away in advance or at the door. Already, the big Google/YouTube finale at Beacon Theater Wednesday night is SRO, forcing Google to reject press credentials so that every last ad person can attend. Understand YouTube is setting up a conference call with reporters earlier Wednesday. Maybe they can take a cue from ABC and do a simulcast of their Beacon presentation for press and overflow ad people at Google HQ near Chelsea Market. You would think they have the facilities there, and of course the money, to generate a simulcast. Capacity issues are, in this case, a good thing...suggests you've got a product worth ad spending.
Videos demonstrating the philosophy of these services and what they've done so far. Well-produced, taking only a few minutes to deliver the philosophy and content in engaging manner.
What's not working:
Way-too-long presentations. The actual presentation of most TV upfront events is between 30 and 75 minutes. Discovery Communications can get away with a two-hour spectacle because they have 13 channels to highlight, and the presentation itself moves at a pace where the momentum never lets up. When you go two or three hours without break with a showcase, you better have enough material worthy of keeping audiences in their seats. Not in this case, and the prime cause is....
Panel sessions better suited for other places than this forum. In every case I attended, the panel (or two at one event) stopped the show dead in its tracks by being self-serving (with no audience Q&A) or veering into side issues that dragged everyone watching down a rabbit hole. In one case late last week, the panel busted up an outstanding presentation when it could have made the transition to a closing (and dynamite) musical performance.
Specifics on when content will premiere. A number of events described programs ahead without mentioning when they will debut (summer/fall/early 2013). Big no-no. If you want advertisers and journalists to get behind a show you're highlighting, give them the outlook for when that show starts, either in the presentation or a press release.
Diversity on display. With few exceptions, you're not getting series or projects involving or impacting African-Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, etc. You're also not getting much on the efforts of these ventures to attract producers and talent of color on new content. Let's hear it--front and center. Also, from here on, Digitas' own Newfront production, which did showcase diversity in a number of ways, should devote time to a session on the current/future course of online diversity.
Again, we'll dig deeper into these points and others as we review individual Newfront efforts, starting with DEG and Microsoft Advertising next time. Look for Scripps Networks' upfront from last week next time as well.
Until that next time, stay well and stay tuned!
Simon Applebaum is producer/host of Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the weekly Internet-distributed radio program covering the TV scene. Simon cal be reached at email@example.com.
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