The focus throughout upfront season will always be wooing advertisers to brands, but the format with which cable nets are courting buyers is malleable—and currently undergoing some changes. Take Disney Media Sales, which opted to forgo a big event for advertisers in NYC and instead hold 2 for select clients: 1 for key East Coast and Midwest buyers and 1 for West Coasters. Disney Media Sales & Marketing evp Rita Ferro said taking advertisers out of the office was a strategic choice and proved an advantage. “The benefit of having them with us, away from the office, is that they really focused on opening the dialogue and having a conversations with us.” Those in attendance were “the ones that invest in us, with deeper partnerships,” she said, and the multi-day affair included an entire day of insights, pertaining to audience, marketplace expertise, trends in family co-viewing, and more. The focus was on “taking a good look at what really works on the different platforms and how we bring together the whole partnership.”
Discovery Communications is also taking a more targeted approach. Rather than doing a single, splashy affair, the company is holding separate events for agencies and then clients, according to ad sales pres Joe Abruzzese. “We were able to get collectively a lot more attention than doing one big presentation… We feel that we’re able to have more targeted conversations going agency to agency. If we’re talking to an agency who represents an automotive client then we can tailor that presentation to include a network like Velocity,” he said.
But not all networks are scaling things down. Some are doing the opposite. NBCU, for instance, is combining its entire portfolio of broadcast and cable networks in one upfront for the first time ever on May 16. “Our event will reflect the way we go to market as a unified portfolio which makes it easier for our clients to do business with us all together,” said ad sales, client partnerships chmn Linda Yaccarino in a statement. “There isn’t going to be an upfront event as big and bold as this one.”
Scripps Networks also finds a benefit to larger events. It’s done a full road tour to 7 cities for the past 10 years. “Clients and agencies find it convenient when we come to their cities,” said national ad sales pres Jon Steinlauf. “In many cities, it has become a regional happening when we bring our show into town. This year our Atlanta event was attended by clients and agency execs from 7 different states.” A main attraction at the events is talent. Wed night in LA, for instance, attendees were able to hobnob with “The Property Brothers” Jonathan and Drew Scott and Food Network’s Guy Fieri. Scripps’ tour is also about supporting regional sales offices. “The upfront tour is part of an overarching commitment we have to support clients and agencies across the country with our strong regional sales offices that are now supplementing the larger events with many customized presentations.”
Meanwhile, when it comes to newfronts, don’t discount digital companies’ desire to make a big splash as well. Hulu, for instance, is a headliner during the two-week period of presentations at the start of May—and it plans to leverage the newfronts “to make sure our message is seen by as many people as possible,” Hulu head of sales Peter Naylor told AdWeek. For some, bigger is clearly better.