Yes, it's that time of year again: everyone is fronting. NewFronts, Upfronts, FutureFronts, water fronts…The Fronts are a time to reflect on the state of the industry and all the change that is taking place at a blistering pace. It's a time to take notice of how the industry is evolving -- it's invigorating, and of course, challenging.
Speaking of challenges, I'm sure you've seen the headlines…I know I have – CMOs are increasingly concerned about recent revelations in digital advertising regarding control and safety, and as a result many brands are reevaluating their media plans and have been vocal about their demands to ensure their brands are surrounded by premium, trusted content.
We are in a golden age of content matched by a whirlwind of technology – which creates an increasingly complicated, unchartered intersection, full of choices for consumers, marketers, and publishers.
Advertisers are looking for more transparency, efficiency, control and better guarantees from media companies, while also looking for mass reach vehicles to ensure they can get the scale they need to achieve their goals.
A few years ago, there was a distinction between broadcast and digital – with broadcast claiming robust audiences, premium content, and the guarantees of reach/frequency. On the other hand, digital-first players offered precise targeting, but with fuzzy lines between content and advertising, and a different type of scale. Marketers were forced to choose between the two with little to rationalize the media plan. Those days are over and the media companies that cannot adapt to the new expectation will get left behind.
We are in the age of people-led advertising. What if advertisers could have the best of both worlds? Premium content at scale in a safer environment, along with robust data-led targeting, precision, and attribution. It no longer has to be old versus new, static versus dynamic, context versus audience. What you will continue to see at the Fronts will be convergence and holistic solutions.
In a people-led media era, marketers are being drawn back to the mass reach, premium content of broadcast that consumers still enjoy en masse. But, brands are asking for more targeting and better data to ensure when they pay a premium, they are reaching the right targets.
We are well on a path to creating better advertising products to match today's content. A few years ago, we may have said the answer is going to be programmatic – now it's technology-enabled. Vague yes, but intentionally so – as more investment pours into harnessing systems to deliver better experiences for consumers.
Look at what NBCU, Conde Nast, and Vox are doing with Concert, what Fox, Turner, and Viacom have done with Open AP, iHeartMedia and SmartAudio products, or what CBS continues to do with CBS All Access. The list goes on…
While the Upfronts inspire this, they aren't the only place to find innovation at scale.
Another enormous opportunity to get mass reach this season, and one that comes with new products, is broadcast radio. Radio continues to remain the number one mass reach medium in the U.S. and can deliver premium, live content at massive scale, yet it's easy to gloss over this medium when video takes the stage. And in this Upfront season where seismic shifts are being discussed, a 'sound' strategy is an important element to consider.
In fact, I was talking with Bob Pittman, iHeartMedia's CEO, the other day and he detailed some of the people-led products that iHeart is successfully activating – from an audio influencer network to redefining what native can be (with dynamic audio creative). They also recently introduced SmartAudio on their programmatic platform, using digital data to target hundreds of audience cohorts at broadcast scale on-air.
The line between digital data and broadcast delivery is being rapidly erased in television and radio, which makes broadcast media companies (who invest in the premium content consumers love) very appealing this Upfront season.
Previously, there was a divide between big and smart -- no longer as big has gotten smart. Whether it's video, audio, or out-of-home, this is the age of complete solutions. …And I'm happy to experience it…wherever, whenever, however the hell I want. :)
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