23rd Annual TV Preview – Upfronts 2018
Every May in NYC, the advertising industry descends on mid-town with a sense of familiarity in the air. We flow in and out of historic sites – progressing from Radio City to Lincoln Center to Carnegie Hall. We recognize faces and hear similar claims (‘We’re number one!”) – but this year, this sense of familiarity transcended to a sense of nostalgia that crossed over from our upfront week rituals to the tele- vision programming being previewed.
When we think about nostalgia as it relates to television, it means different things to different people. For some, it’s an immediate flashback to the “good ole days” of families sitting around the “tube” watching The Andy Griffith Show. For others, it’s a memory of welcoming Johnny Carson or Dan Rather into their homes every evening. And for many of us, it’s thinking back to the laugh-out-loud comedies of the 90’s, like Will & Grace…or was that just last week?
“Nothing reaches into people’s lives like television. Nothing reaches into people’s hearts like television,” explained Linda Yaccarino, NBCU Chairman, Advertising and Client Partnership.
And she’s right – television has lasting impact. It leaves a cultural footprint on its audience. It’s for this reason networks are latching on to programming reboots.
At the ABC upfront, Jimmy Kimmel jokingly summed it up, “One of our new ideas was to Google our old ideas.” But given ABC’s success with Roseanne, whose 2018 premiere broke records across all platforms, we can see why other networks have decided to follow suit (assuming their actors can stay off Twitter).
Fresh on the heels of the women’s empowerment movement, CBS is bringing back one of the most prominent female leads from its catalogue – Murphy Brown. The network is hot on the reboot train, with execs saying they are focused on “bold” programming. The fall schedule includes five series that are either reboots, revivals, or spin-offs (not including the NCIS franchise).
During a time when viewer behavior is constantly evolving, CBS is comfortable with the level of familiarity provided by their fall schedule. “Amid all this change, we have a very clear idea of who we are and where we’re going. CBS is a company that succeeds and believes in broadcast television,” said Kelly Kahl, President, CBS Entertainment.
Outside of programming, upfront week conversations focused on new ad models meant to help with advertising engagement. Whether through Open AP, limited commercial interruption (LCI), picture-in-picture (PIP) offerings, or by making shorter length creative available (:06), networks are getting creative in an effort to engage consumers during a time when linear television ratings continue to decline.
At the FOX upfront, Joe Marchese, President, Advertising Revenue, introduced “JAZ pods,” which are condensed commercial pods featuring two :30 ads.
While this limited commercial structure is being rapidly adopted by other network groups, presenters couldn’t help but be distracted by the unique name. “’JAZ pods’ sounds like something you’d use to wash leotards,” joked Kimmel the following day at the ABC upfront.
While it may not be clear from the name, the intent of the pods is “lower frequency, higher impact,” said Marchese.
“What we hope to do is offer a primetime national platform for advertisers. Whether that’s longform movie trailers or custom content, it’s about tying in an advertiser’s content with our characters and storylines,” says Bruce Lefkowitz, FOX EVP of Ad Sales.
With the goal of driving business results for advertisers, the strategy is similar for NBCU. The company’s introduction of the Prime Pod, as well as other new ad formats (prime-time bridge, scripted commercial launch, interactive picture-in-picture, etc.), will result in ten percent fewer ads in its original primetime programming starting in fourth quarter.
“That last click doesn’t happen without the first impression,” said Yaccarino. And that’s something all networks can agree on – TV’s reach brings consumers into the purchase funnel.
Disney-ABC Sales President Rita Ferro stressed how the network groups integrated portfolio approach builds campaign awareness and increases purchase intent. Ferro explained that given their model, greater opportunities for brand integrations exist across all formats. “We can now think about storytelling in different ways,” said Ferro. “We will continue to drive consumption across devices, and we sell it that way.”
Whether through decreased ad loads or increased integration opportunities, networks are aligned in making sure television advertising continues to reign supreme. While the familiarity of the medium remains; there is a continuous evolution happening. The many ways to view a pro- gram are rapidly expanding, and this forces television marketers to push beyond what’s familiar and discover new, more impactful ways to deliver an advertiser’s message to the intended consumer.