The NewFronts – From a Brand Marketer Point of View – Steve Carbone, MediaCom USA

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Headed into the second year of the Digital Newfronts, our hope was the whirlwind of events and news would change and challenge not only how we think about content but also the relationships between brands, agencies and publishers. As one of the largest media agencies of the world, our focus is on creating a closed loop: a system of content + connections that matches the right content with a fully interconnected distribution plan that maximizes quantifiable value.

That ... and snagging the best goodie bags.

Big takeaways

The standard themes of scale, data, accountability, content value, cross-channel distribution and devices were there. Still, it seems at long last that all the harping on the hurdles of measurement and pricing has given way to an actual conversation about doing what's right for brands and consumers.

A stronger emphasis on innovation was also notable, as the consumer marketplace continues to splinter and consumption patterns/time spent sloshes between desktop and mobile. There's an acknowledgement that we have to get ahead of how we track and set client expectations tied to audience engagement.

Digital trying to be like TV trying to be like digital

And what's the big insight tied to engagement? It's really not about the endless chatter around how TV is trying to be more like digital or digital like TV. It is that, of course, but at the end of the day, it's really more about creating a marketplace that is spending as much in production over a month as a movie studio will spend in a year in development.

Major players including Yahoo!, AOL and Microsoft are accused of "invading the TV landscape," with their millions going to new series and long-form content, but it's just the same old conversation to a certain extent: How to grab and hold share of voice and larger numbers of consumers. It's all part of an evolution on both sides of the aisle. We proactively interpret what's hot and happening for clients, but it's the deeper engagement and experiences that we value, regardless of where they happen (or who happens to be leading or following on any given day).

Original digital content: going directly at the new and different

C7, C-shmeven. TV networks wanting to get ratings credit for time-shifted content views that happen up to seven days after an initial broadcast (vs. today's standard three)? That's just a bunch of old school companies trying to twist an old-school rule to make it work.

That's according to Hulu, at least.

At its own NewFront, Hulu execs boasted that its platform is a better buy than traditional TV because -- on Hulu -- clients only pay for the ads that are watched. Given the ongoing angst over the effectiveness of TV advertising in a split-screen world (and the future of traditional TV, in general) that's pretty compelling.

YouTube, of course, also has a great deal to say on this matter, given its prodigious list of original talent franchises. AOL's bet on celebrity content, a full connect-the-dots creation-to-monetization model (including TV performance comparisons), wider distribution and custom channels also resonated with audiences. All in all, we see genuine change that responds to and hopefully precedes changes in viewer behaviors.

Clear and present danger

While I herald innovation as a necessary aspect of the evolving digital story, there's still not enough conversation about what consumers and brands truly desire: engaging, brand-fit content that crosses development processes, consumer insights and KPIs. I guess that's one of the things that keep media agencies in business: It's our job to represent that need in every room we enter.

So as digital content and production continue to get movie-level support, we'll continue to focus on creating genuine brand equity on both sides of the content + connections equation. Based on what I saw after more than a week of flashy presentations, we're the only ones that can.

Oh, and the question you care most about? Yahoo had a pretty awesome goodie bag.

Steve joined MediaCom in 2013 as chief digital & analytics officer, overseeing the agency's digital,Steve Carbone search, social and accountability teams. He joined from UMarketing Digital, where he was President and a founding partner.

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