The Marketing Corner: 2013 Advertising Upfront Redux

By Adele Lassere
Adele Lassere
Adele Lassere
May 22, 2013 Updated: May 22, 2013

Whew! Madison Avenue has made it through another upfront season. In layman terms, the upfront is a sneak peek provided to advertising agencies and marketers to build enthusiasm for each television network’s programming coming up this fall. 

Hopefully, these programs will be purchased at a price that is profitable to the seller (networks) and at a cost savings to the buyer. Hence, all serious negotiations and eventual commitments are made based on an agreed-upon rate that is lower now than if one waited to purchase when the new television season begins this fall. 

Now that all of the anticipation of what the new programming (comedies, dramas, realities, and so on) looks like has culminated, we can get down to the business of “how much.” Going into this upfront, prime-time ratings are down year over year, larger businesses are cautious about heavy spending and advertising agency buyers’ opinions about this upcoming new season are deliberate, at best. Evaluation of these facts points to low (single digit) percentage increases on CPMs (cost per thousand, or the total cost divided by the number of thousands in television audience or market). 

As small-business owners, you may not have hired an advertising agency that would dive into the data deluge of television ratings, audience viewing patterns, and CPM trends of various programming. In addition, your business model may not be able to support the cost of buying upfront or ahead of the new season. 

However, it is helpful to know how the marketing conditions are being perceived by the major agencies on Madison Avenue. This gives you a snapshot of possible cost inflation on a local or regional basis. Alternatively, it also lets you know which programming is in higher demand. Lastly, it allows you to plan ahead on how much to set aside in your budget for television advertising. 

Other notable cues to look for during this upfront season include the following:

• Although the major networks (ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS) tend to garner more share of spending, cable networks offer comparable programming and are usually more cost efficient. Cable networks can potentially provide more frequency.
• If purchasing cable, consider combined deals with cable networks that are owned by the same holding company, such as Viacom (BET, VH1, MTV …). Deals of this nature could garner cost efficiencies and offer a broad array of programming that reaches radically different audiences, in some cases.
• Look to extend your messages on second and third screens (smartphones and tablets). Many viewers are watching their favorite programs on the smaller screen. So, you need to ensure your message is everywhere your desired customers are based on their viewing patterns.

As always, be a good study of the marketplace and of your customers and potential customers. This business of advertising can be very fluid at times and you need to be nimble to stay ahead of the game.

Adele Lassere is a marketing/advertising consultant with 20+ years of experience, freelance writer, and author of “Elements of Buying: A How To Reference Guide on Advertising for Business Owners,” available at Amazon.com. Adele was listed on Black Enterprise’s 2011 Top Execs in Marketing & Advertising and Black Enterprise’s 2013 Top Women Executives in Advertising & Marketing. Contact: lassere@bellsouth.net