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Takeaways for Advertisers from 2019’s Remarkably Similar NewFronts and UpFronts

The TV upfronts and the NewFronts have wrapped and, as AdAge reported, the most notable takeaway is how presenters at both events seemed to be talking from the same script, focused on the same overarching themes of original programming, brand safety and digital streaming. Below we’ll look at some new offerings around each theme and the advertising opportunities that will result.

While advertisers have plenty to cheer about in these new opportunities, they will face far more complexity, according to the IAB, who produced an extensive series of interviews: Insights from the Digital Content Newfronts. As part of an effort to get advertisers to tailor video ad content according to the screen it’s on and the content it’s in, the IAB released a study revealing that consumers watch video differently on different screens and their receptiveness to advertising changes. Convergence may be here, but marketers have a lot to learn in order to reap all its benefits.

Priming the Pump for More Primetime
One indication of the converging worlds of linear and digital is how frequently the word primetime—long owned by linear TV—came up at NewFronts. YouTube, for example, promoted its platform as “personal primetime,” organizing content around niche interests like cooking, dancing and makeup, or stars like Tiffany Haddish and Justin Beiber. Advertisers can sponsor programs according to these individual tastes, as opposed to just running ads on any random video. It also announced that all of its original content would be free and ad-supported, opening up a promising source of new inventory.

In another primetime reference, Conde Nast’s chief revenue and marketing officer said of its original programming, “We are the new Thursday night and we are always on.” Conde used NewFronts to introduce new ad products that package its premium inventory and help brands integrate into its programming, as well as a deal with Nielsen to measure its content.

Keeping Brands Safe
Brand safety remains top of mind. As Condé Nast promoted its partnership with YouTube for getting its original content out, it had to acknowledge advertisers’ concerns about the platform. Admitting that YouTube can be “tricky,” Conde took pains to differentiate its programming from the wider YouTube universe maintaining that because it creates and controls all of the content, there’s no risk to brands.

Brand safety was also a hot topic at the UpFronts where Xandr, AT&T’s ad unit, discussed the launch of Community, its automated marketplace. Designed to support the convergence of linear TV and digital video, the marketplace enables advertisers to connect with hard-to-reach audiences, regardless of how they engage with content on TV, connected TV, over-the-top, mobile and online in a brand-safe environment.

Dreaming of Streaming
Nearly every presenter at the UpFronts devoted significant time to discussing streaming, regardless of whether the service had even been launched or is ad supported. But with TV ratings and ad inventory flat, broadcasters wanted to focus on offerings and inventory to come.

Not surprisingly, there was a lot more to talk about on the streaming front during the NewFronts. First off, Viacom, the only traditional TV programmer to present, focused on its programming for digital outlets promoting its acquisition of the free, ad-supported streaming service PlutoTV and the 15 new channels dedicated to content from its channels like MTV and Comedy Central.

Hulu discussed its plans to reduce its reliance on interruptive advertising by introducing new ad formats, such as its packages for the binge-watching experience along with its plans for capping ad frequency. Advertisers who saw the presentation told AdAge that Hulu stands as the best model of how to talk about content in the context of premium TV, of how to advertise in OTT and how to completely erase the lines between digital and TV.

As more TV networks move into the over-the-top universe and package digital inventory alongside their linear programming, digital publishers have realized they too must connect into linear TV and OTT.  Convergence isn’t the future—it’s now.