May 12 2020
Thought Leadership

Changing the Frequency of The Upfronts

The first upfront presentation was made by ABC in 1962, making it undoubtedly one of the longest standing events in advertising history. Given recent events, there’s been chatter about whether or not the Upfronts will be cancelled altogether this year. There’s even some speculation that we’ve seen the end of its reign over advertisers who shell out significant investments, year after year, ($21 billion in 2019) based on a peek into TV advertising’s crystal ball.

The reality is, although the cumbersome task of managing scarcity in the advertising marketplace is decades old, it hasn’t seen much improvement. Increased fragmentation has only exacerbated it. In other words, the necessity for the Upfronts isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but what they look like in 2020 and post-pandemic, is sure to be very different from years’ past. Whereas agency execs and investment teams couldn’t wait for a chance to see their favorite celebrities or be wined and dined at exclusive soirées, now the main, and arguably only, focus is to be smart with their dollars. Our current economic crisis has accelerated the need to plan and execute advertising investments in a way that creates value, eliminates waste, and maximizes advertising spend across channels and beyond linear.

True cross-channel activation and measurement used to be a pipe dream when navigating linear and digital buys. With advanced solutions and actionable data, brands now have the opportunity to reach audiences from the largest screen in their house to the smallest, capitalizing on one of the most human aspects of ad measurement, the sweet spot between an ad being optimally engaged with and overexposure. Understanding frequency distribution is one of the most overlooked strategies in measuring advertising effectiveness, especially in a futures market like TV investment, and even more so during times of uncertainty when program scheduling is in flux.

With media budgets being slashed, efficient investments should be the highest priority for brands and media buyers going into this year’s Upfronts. A measurement like frequency distribution can tell decision makers two things: where to maximize reach, and how to maximize value. Uncovering under and overexposed households means that media can be reallocated and optimized, to either decrease the amount of wasted (overexposed) impressions, or to shift those impressions across channels to a better served audience. In a year riddled with uncertainty, the ability to tie viewers together, across linear and digital with advanced audiences, is an immeasurable benefit for this year’s Upfronts. A year from now, if a brand’s predictions don’t pan out and audiences continue to shift, having access to the right optimization tools will be key. Solutions that enable advertisers to compare historic linear plans and visualize frequency will help identify areas for opportunistic performance improvements and make optimizations that save them money.

Many brands are completely in the dark about their cross-screen or linear frequency distribution at the household level, a reality that has been brought to the forefront as they try to do more with less and plan for future investments. So while the Upfronts will happen, free of glitzy sales pitches and without the most accurate historical audience data to make decisions, brands and media buyers are making even bigger bets on what the future of TV viewership will look like. The right data and measurement tools help advertisers mitigate risk and unlock value to ensure that the show does, indeed, go on.