A Look at the Upfront Now and in the Future.

The upfront is just getting started and already there are prognosticators reporting that the decline in revenue will continue from last year. Wayne Friedman, Mediapost West Coast Editor, who moderated the first panel at the recent Outfront, wondered “whether or not we are in a new upfront paradigm. Are we on verge of perhaps two consecutive upfronts where there has been declining volume? In the past 25 years only four seasons had spending declines. Each one rebounded the following year.’ 

But what about this year? Will the declines continue and if so, what does that mean for the business? It seems to me that it all comes down to consumer behavior and fragmentation of platforms. If devices continue to offer consumers more on-demand content choices and the television technology – VOD, connected TV, OTT - continues to increase in both distribution and adoption, the business opportunity for selling traditional television in the old upfront model will inevitably shrink and need to change to a model that fully captures cross platform and digital …. in as close to real time as possible. That means currency cross platform measurement, dynamic ad insertion and maybe real time bidding. This could keep a traditional media executive awake at night.

Friedman asked each of his panelists what discussions they were having with their clients. Helen Giles, Director National Broadcast and Video Integration at Lowe Campbell Ewald said, “We look at look at individual client needs and where the audience is.” Chris Geraci, President National Broadcast Investment at OMD agreed, “We always start with the clients. We look at media as video and have an agnostic approach to it. Video is now consumed on more diverse array of platforms than ever before.” 

Some were weighing the value of buying in the upfront.  “What if I didn't do the upfront?” said Jason Kanefsky, EVP Strategic Investments for Havas Media, “We have this discussion at Havas. What is my ceiling for price and what is my alternative? It used to be the idea of the fear of being shut out. And that fear is what has driven the market. Fragmentation makes us less fearful.” Maureen Bosetti, EVP Group Director National Broadcast and NY Operations for Optimedia posited, “What is the value we can yield from the upfront? Is it the best programming and the flexibility? Why are we in the upfront?” And Gibbs Haljun, Managing Director Media Investment for GroupM noted that, “The upfronts is the futures market. It depends on what are we doing from a brand and client perspective. Many investments are being done closer to lead time. But it is based on individual clients.”

That is now. Looking forward five years to Upfront 2019-2020 and there was little consensus as to what to expect. Barry Lowenthal, President of Media Kitchen, see programmatic as the future. “We have been bullish on programmatic and took back from our trading desk to do programmatic all by ourselves. It is the very center of what we do. The best insights come from data driven media buying.” However Kris Magel, Chief Investment Officer, Initiative is less convinced. He said, “Programmatic is overused.” And Adam Kasper, Chief Media Officer, Havas Media sees a sea change going forward. “It is incrementally different this year. We are shifting from traditional to digital and it is an important shift. Are upfront commitments necessary? I am not sure it will be I existence in five years. Maybe we will go directly to content creators.” Kasper also saw, a “revolution coming in the measurement space.”

It is difficult to make any forecast in this turgid media environment but if agency executives are questioning the future of Upfront as we know it, it is certain to change in a meaningful way. As Joe Mandese, Editor in Chief for Mediapost said, “We have reached an inflection point where things really are different.” How different still remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

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Yes, Creative and Data Can Be Friends, According to PSFK

Something strange happened at the recent PeopleFront and the PSFK conferences. The PeopleFront, based on the importance of data driven solutions, led to a discussion of the importance of the creative. PSFK, based on the importance of creative ideas, devoted the afternoon to big data, artificial intelligence, IBM’s Watson, cognitive computing and analytical insights. Hey, what gives here? 

At the Peoplefront, Facebooks Director of Ads Research, Daniel Slotwiner noted that "we are all working on data strategy; Data for insights, data for outcomes. But creative is one of the most important things. We can get the right eyeballs in right time and right format but what if it is bad content?"

At PSFK, the discussion of data was intertwined with the creativity of invention. Steven Dean, author of the book, Quantified Self noted that “most individuals don't know what big data means. But if it helps to build the right products it is providing value to consumer.” Tara Greer, EVP/Executive Creative Director, platforms at DEUTSCH LA added that we are “living in big data environment; the Internet of things involving body, health, in home, in vehicles. (For example there are) smart chopsticks to see if you are eating reused oil.” 

How much is data impacting the creative process? For some at the PSFK conference, it helps in curating content. According to Cloth’s co-founder Seth Porges, “Big data is important when assessing different content. It can help curate content for you.” For others it is a gut check. Dean says that he “thinks about the data, but I opt for experiences that are narrative and storytelling - Not numbers. I must make meaning out of the data that is there.”

In the world of gaming, the subtle use of behavior modifiers, including the use of a certain color, is tested. Jamin Warren, founder of Kill Screen, explained the phenomena of GamerGate and the misogyny in the gaming world. “There are flaws in how we communicate online. (We have experimented with) changing color of text to see if it impacts behavior.”

But when does data cross over the line? How much is too much? Greer explained that there is a “gap between big data and big wisdom. Measurement used to be an epiphany but there are challenges to move beyond the data to create meaningful experiences.” Porges added, “You run the risk of losing taste when you apply too much data. (You) need a chance to experiment outside the data.”

There is a “big moral question” according to Greer regarding data privacy. “More people are cognizant today but years ago big data was utopian. Now there is a big rebellion against big data.” But Dean admitted that “there are some aspects of my life that I would like to leave up to an algorithm, like what should I eat, for example.” In a perfect, more on-demand world, data could be used as a benevolent influencer. Tegan Faan, founder at Gigit said, “Data in an algorithm can give me simplicity. It can make my life simpler and match people to their unique interests. Personalization.”

In my experience, creative and quant have had a love/ hate relationship. Research could be held up by creators as a vindication of their gut instincts or a report card of their lacking performance. But I have always felt that the two disciplines are intertwined.  If data is the messenger, it is the content that forms the message. Without either you just have meaningless noise.

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The Big Media Shift. Q&A with Rich Kahn

Richard Kahn, CEO of eZanga, “always had a keen interest in software development. Computer software always fascinated me from the time I wrote my first game until now. I was even featured in a computer software magazine at the age of twelve.” This early interest has helped him launch eZanga as a search engine and digital marketing company that helps convert traffic to clients based on standard analytics.

I sat down with Rich and talked to him about how digital marketing is evolving, it’s impact on television and the types of analytics that help drive his business. He also spoke about how the digital landscape is evolving and how the future of media might look in the next few years.

CW: What Is Your Background? How Did You Get to Where You Are Today?

RK: I've always had a keen interest in software development. Computer software always fascinated me, from the time I wrote my first game, until now. I was even featured in a computer software magazine at the age of twelve. I started my own internet company in 1993; an online magazine that discussed the internet and how it was going to change the world we live in. In time, the company grew into an online shopping mall; one of the first of its kind. In this venture, I was featured in an online newsletter for writing up one of the first motion graphics on the internet. Over the next ten years, I started several ventures before founding eZanga with my wife Beth in 2003.

CW: Tell Me about eZanga

RK: eZanga is a search engine and digital marketing company that drives quality, converting traffic to clients based on standard analytics.

CW: What are the standard analytics that you use?

RK: We use everything from Google Analytics to comScore, and conversion metrics – any analytics that help us achieve our client goals. For example, a client wants to drive traffic to a specific landing page. This landing page generates sales, and eZanga uses analytics specific to their campaign goals. We'll use that data to optimize their campaign based on what the analytics tell us.

CW: Tell me about your relationship with comScore.

RK: We are a comScore client, meaning our data will show on client dashboards. That data can then be used to service their campaigns according to results. In comScore, we tag all our users so that we can extrapolate demographic data. Many advertising agencies use comScore's data base to look for certain audience demographics. By tagging our users, agencies get a better idea of our demographics and audience too.

CW: What are some of the measurement challenges that you face?

RK: Some clients don’t have the ability to share analytics with us and sometimes clients are secretive about their data. It's tough to optimize a campaign when you cannot see how it's performing.

We've also come across clients who are not Google Analytics enabled.  Some use an analytics platform that we may be unfamiliar with. When that happens, we usually work with them to get Google Analytics installed. That way, we both have the data we need available. If the client does not wish to use the free Google service, we need to ask that they provide us with the data that we require. It helps us give them better service and a full-scope of their campaigns.

Some clients don't want to share their data, fearful they will share their trade secrets.  It's often difficult to pull data from these customers. We're not going to get a full report, but they may give us some information. With this information, the account manager can optimize the account for success. Without it, account managers cannot optimize, limiting the client’s success.

CW: What will the impact of connected TVs have on your business?

RK: Any time you have multiple devices with different screens, it creates a risk to businesses. There are security holes on different operating systems, and hackers love to exploit that. The technology eZanga has built works well, but we're diligent at looking for holes. For instance, we've seen these types issues arise on Android devices. Knowing this, we watch these devices for new developments.

CW: What are the different types of security risks and how do they vary by provider?

RK: Security hacks on iOS devices are less prevalent. Apple has a stringent approval method for apps available in the Apple Store. The Apple team checks for viruses and malware as part of their screening process. This makes it difficult for developers to slide malicious content on an iOS device. That’s not to say we've never seen an issue on an iOS device, but it's a rare occurrence. Android devices see this more because Google Play doesn't have a central monitoring system in place. Without central monitoring, developers can create an app and put it on the marketplace immediately. This makes it easy for hackers to affect the user’s device.

Google has recently realized that there’s a problem with their lack of central monitoring. Today, they are working on putting a monitoring service into practice. With this, Google will need a system to check new apps, as well as those already on Google Play. While Google worries about getting this monitoring in place, Apple reviews its new apps. And until Google is up to speed, that risk remains.

While this does present more issues, our software has always been in-tune with new technologies. We’re always reviewing and testing new devices. When a new device comes out that’s different from something we own, we buy it and test it. We try to hack it ourselves to see what hackers could do to it. Then, as our software picks up different anomalies, we review it. This allows us to pinpoint modifications, preventing a security attack.

Our goal is to provide clients with clean, converting traffic. If we see traffic is converting at an improper level, we know there’s a problem with it. Our system knows how to handle that traffic, and alerts us to new fraud dangers.

CW: Do you really think that print is dead?

RK: It’s only dead in the traditional sense. When you think of print media, newspapers and magazines come to mind. Prints not dead, it has transitioned. Today, instead of printing on paper, content is printed online. More people are likely employed as writers today than twenty years ago. It proves that the move to digital is coming as a rapid pace.

Generations before carried around newspapers or magazine to read at their leisure. Today, smartphones are at an arm’s reach. The days of thumbing through the newspaper for sections are long gone. Today, you can subscribe to the information that is important to you. Digital gives us instant access news alerts and updates faster than ever.  It proves that information is available much quicker than it had been in the past.

Years ago, newspapers were printed at 4am and distributed throughout the day. If there was a change, it wasn't corrected until the following day. With digital, updates are frequent, abundant, and accessible in a moment’s notice.

Print isn't dead, because there are people out there who still use it. Some people still like to look at the physical paper, or turn the pages in their books. Yet, it's dying in the traditional sense with the transition to digital. For instance, we recently put an ad for a job opening in the newspaper and online. Every single response to the job listing was from the online source. Digital is just more conducive to our busy lifestyle than print.

CW: Where do you see television headed?

RK: Most people don’t watch TV commercials. They DVR their shows, and fast forward through them.
Soon you’ll see cable services allow you to download an app onto your smart TV. You'll be able to watch television through the app, dropping the need for cable boxes, too. Those boxes are expensive to build, maintain, and support. And consumers want access to with TV via the cloud. It’s more efficient, faster, easier to support, and much more cost effective.

Today, you can DVR your favorite shows and fast forward through the commercials. When DVR moves to the cloud, I see providers taking that ability away, forcing users to watch commercials. It maintains the viability of TV commercials, which is declining now. It’s a great medium, and I don’t see it ever going away.

CW: The world is becoming digitized…

RK: Yes and digital is going to continue to grow. You have the ability to take your TV programming and watch it on different devices. You can watch your favorite shows on-demand on your computer, tablet, or phone. That’s something you are going to continue to see more of in the coming years. The TV that has sat in your living room for years is no longer a traditional television set. It’s a digital device. Everything you pump into it now is digital, so your TV is an extension of the internet.

CW: What do you see as the impact of mobile in the media industry?

RK: I recently read that Google says that 60% of searches are on mobile devices. It makes sense; one of the top mobile queries is restaurants nearby the user. People look for a restaurant that will satisfy their tastes and will offer a great experience. The mobile app Yelp has capitalized on this search. Users refer to Yelp for reviews on meals, customer service, and ambiance of a restaurant. A positive review will go far, and a negative one has a user looking for an alternative.

Mobile is going to see continued growth because it is right there in your pocket. Most people are on their phones more than they are watching TV these days. A phone isn't just a phone anymore. It’s your TV, your tablet, you social circle, to-do list, and more. With such a captive audience, it gets the message to people faster than any other means. I always say that you need to advertise where your audience is. We'll see more wearables, smarter smart phones, more robust features on our devices too. Advertisers should be ready to get their message out there utilizing these new technologies.

CW: Give me some predictions as to how the media landscape will look 5 years from now.

RK: People will always need to advertise their product to bring new clients in. Whether it’s word of mouth, print advertising, or with media, they'll still need to bring in clients. That aspect of marketing will never change, but the ways to reach these clients continues to evolve.

Let’s face it, print media is dying. In the coming years, you’ll see marketing budgets and efforts shift from print to digital, if they haven't already. Companies will invest in internet-based advertising and social media marketing to amplify their messaging and increase brand awareness. With this comes the rise of video advertising, continuing its upward progression. I expect we'll continue to find new and unique ways of advertising products through video and audio.

Search engines continue to grow as people turn to online versus print as a primary information resource. As a result, the ad-fraud industry will become increasingly important in protecting advertisers and publishers from unwanted or unscrupulous advertising practices. This is where I see eZanga making a difference. We look forward to the continued enhancements of our ad-fraud detection system, Traffic Advisors, and welcome new players to the landscape as well. I expect those trends to continue evolving, and I look forward to seeing what new technologies are developed as a result.

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