Online publishers can help by offering appealing inventory packages.
Is it just me, or do we start talking about the network TV upfront season earlier each year? Last year, I wrote about the upfront in mid-March. Now, it's February and we're already hearing chatter around the industry. Many clients are anxiously looking to get a head start on the infamous advertising orgy that happens every May.
The broadcast upfront is so important to us in interactive marketing because many budget-allocation and preplanning decisions are made in advance of the broadcast buying frenzy. With so much money changing hands in such a short timeframe, the environment is ripe to secure digital spending well in advance of the "on-air" date. This is becoming increasingly important as we run into sellout situations on some of the most coveted online placements. Locking up some of those spots early benefits clients (and potentially boxes out the competition), publishers (the ability to put revenue on the books early), and agencies alike.
Last year, I placed most of the responsibility on agencies to educate their clients and put together upfront strategies related to individual client needs. Most of you will agree not a lot of interactive business was written outside the obligatory broadcast "added-value" deals (next: a full discourse on added-value).
This year, the sell side of the equation. Online publishers should focus on offering saleable packages that can easily be purchased during the upfront season. Following, a few ways to package inventory appealingly for clients to buy well in advance:
In addition to packaging inventory well, we should also offer more industry-standard cancellation options (as in broadcast TV). This would provide clients with necessary flexibility, as well as introduce the notion that at some point, online dollars are firm and no longer subject to the invariable budget cuts that pop up throughout the year.
I'm more optimistic about this year's upfront, because a few powerful things are working in our favor:
We should be proud of where the interactive marketing industry is. The business has clearly begun to scale across most categories, including those that are traditionally the slowest to adapt to change (consumer packaged goods companies is one example). In a few months, we'll have the opportunity to take a sizeable bite out of over $10 billion that will be exchanged between buyers and sellers.
This year, I want a bigger piece of that action.
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