The Virtual Upfronts: 10 Ways Advertisers Should Adjust their TV Thinking in the Quarantine Era

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In a year of stay-at-home orders, flexible and virtual upfronts, connected TV, little if any new TV programming, and media companies’ brave new worlds, Vevo has just launched a 2020–21 “Homecoming” message to its advertising partners.

In conjunction with that open (video) letter to the community, here are 10 considerations for advertisers as they work through the industry’s favorite time of year — changed as it has been by one of the most consequential periods in our modern history.

1. Acknowledge the catalysts

The linear TV business is transforming into a different kind of business, one driven by news, sports and hosted entertainment. Programming production is at a standstill and TV executives are primarily focused on launching new SVOD services. Months of quarantine now threaten tens of billions in ad revenue due to the lack of sports. Cable and satellite are now at 1995 penetration levels. The dearth of high-quality ad-supported content is having a profound impact on the media economy.

2. Music videos are a scalable CTV opportunity

Data tell us that 2020 is the year of CTV. While about 80 percent of digital investments typically go to the super-aggregators Google and Facebook, CTV is an opportunity for advertisers to become less beholden to them. Weekly time spent streaming in the U.S. has grown 86 percent from a year ago to over 147 billion minutes weekly, according to Nielsen. But as productions dry up, content is at a premium — and music videos provide marketers a unique opportunity. With 70 percent of viewing minutes now coming from scaled platforms like Roku, Samsung and FireTV, music videos now represent a scaled means of reaching streaming viewers. With little in the can for the networks, fresh, first-run content like music videos — with more nimble production methods, remote teams and individual artists still working during the quarantine — can offer a life raft of quality solutions to advertisers.

3. Achieve more reach by diversifying video plans

Audiences are so fragmented that reach-planning in video today should no longer center on minimizing overlap between a select few high-quality options. Instead, video marketers stand to capture widely varied audiences by seizing on as many high-quality content choices as possible.

4. See content carry its weight

Sought-after content generally results in higher viewer attentiveness, and better resonance with audiences, than passive viewing. That’s one advantage of on-demand, opt-in viewing. Investing in specific content that generates reach and resonance is extremely valuable, while algorithmically derived content, which is pushed on viewers, leads to less-valuable passive viewing. For marketers, the surface-level results at first can look like better CPM efficiency or more engagement, but the deeper and more impactful outcomes are watered down in a lesser context and ad exposure.

5. Look beyond the numbers

Perceptions of scale can be misleading for several reasons. So much time spent with content is now ad-free, even on large platforms that sell advertising. A video platform may purport to boast tens of millions of subscribers, but half of them may have ad-free subscriptions, and half the programming that buoys the service may be ad-free as well. The platform may also mix linear and on-demand experiences with differentiated ad loads, further muddling value. The bottom line is, numbers tell a story but numbers taken together with all the details of a platform’s actual advertising mix are the whole story that marketers need.

6. Be honest with yourself about CPMs

Consumers spend money where they see the most value, not on what costs the least; the same goes for media. Great content is often expensive to produce, and it can pose challenges to the very media companies that distribute it. It has cachet. Viewers want to consume first-run scripted TV, movies, sports and music more than any other types of content in the world. A single set of high-value content assets can move large portions of the population in a week or even a single day.

7. Empower multi-platform touchpoints

CTV and mobile are symbiotic platforms. While 40 percent of Vevo’s total audience is reached by CTV each month, our mobile viewing reaches over one-third of the population. Our research has shown that multi-platform exposures on CTV and mobile together is significantly more powerful to advertisers than exposures on CTV or mobile alone.

8. Find flexibility in a new media economy

In a time of quarantine, consumers are spending money in fewer places. But brands still matter, and advertising promotes brand health. Companies like P&G and Amazon have recognized this dynamic as an opportunity to solidify or steal market share from their competitors. Brands can only get out of high-quality media what they’re willing to put into it. When brands assess new media partners, they need to consider a new range of the “Ps”: Products, platforms, positioning, packaging, promotions, pacing and, of course, pricing.

9. Get in on the ground floor

Samsung recently reported that 41 percent of its CTV users watched less than two hours of linear TV in the last month, and 13 percent didn’t watch any. While CTV is nascent, penetration is strong and CTV’s path is clear. There is tremendous value in being among the first to learn about interactive executional tactics, harmonize planning channels, build practical measurement solutions, ensure stewardship, grab ownership stakes and reinforce overall communication strategies.

10. Know that healthy brands will triumph in the long run

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis recently reported that American consumers have the highest savings rate since 1981, saving cash and spending less because of stay-at-home orders and growing unemployment. But the U.S. is a nation of consumers, empowered by new viewing experiences and in love with spending leisure time by consuming entertaining and informative stories, from programmers and advertisers alike.For more information and to learn more about Vevo’s advertising solutions, our distribution network, how we program, perspectives on media and more, please visit

This article was originally published in DigiDay.

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