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When Agencies Predict the Ad Market: MediaPost’s Outfront Forum

May 29th, 2018   ||    by Charlene Weisler

As a strategist myself, I’m finding that it’s becoming harder and harder to predict the industry even five years out. So it was with great interest that I attended MediaPost’s Outfront Forum, where agencies debated the future of the upcoming upfronts, as well as what the upfront might look like five years from now.

Upfronts 2018-2019

There are some topics that seem to swirl through the media ecosystem in waves. This year it’s blockchain, the advanced advertising platform OpenAP, and the reduced ad load on certain networks, which might lead to increased pricing. Panelists prognosticating on the next few months were concerned about how pricing would impact their buys, though they understood the need to reduce clutter in order to improve viewer engagement and attention.

“I support the fact that we live in fragmented world,” stated Maureen Bosetti, chief investment officer at Initiative. “The networks are trying to create a more engaging ad experience and increase attention. They created a world with more clutter and are now trying to pull back.”

But the specter of supply and demand, where less inventory could inevitably lead to higher prices, weighed heavily. “We need to find other supply sources,” she continued. “We want to use these tactics, but at what premium and price point? This is not the answer to everything.”

OpenAP has recently added NBCU to its membership, indicating a wider range of inventory available for purchase on generally accepted television audience segments. But for some agencies, this is not a panacea. “OpenAP can be a turnkey opportunity for some clients,” Bosetti averred. “But we want to be more specific with more clients and would use OpenAP as a complement. We don’t want someone else buying the media for us, but we will use these products where they make sense.”

Upfronts 2023-2024

Five-year predictions at the forum ranged from the status quo to a dramatic transition. “There is still a lot of value in traditional cable,” suggested Mike Law, executive vice president and managing director of media investment at the Dentsu Aegis Network. He believes that “we won’t go off the cliff in five years,” because viewers can create their own experiences. “At some point in time, cable will be the best option for you, while at other points in time it will be Hulu.”

But Barry Lowenthal, president of The Media Kitchen, predicts a reckoning: “I have been saying we have a real problem with social media,” he stated, “and not because of Cambridge Analytica.” He explained that social media creates unhappiness, with great societal consequences. “More people feel worse about themselves after using a channel. I think social media will be far less dominant than what we have today.” Yet Lowenthal noted that demographically speaking, traditional TV may be in trouble. “More young people are watching TV through streaming devices. This is a giant tipping point.”

New technology will also continue to evolve the business. Michael Piner, senior vice president of video and data-driven investments at MullenLowe Mediahub, reflected on the “shocking headlines with cord-cutting,” but also warned that we are missing the growing impact of virtual MVPDs. “Step back and witness the evolution of TV itself,” he suggested. “It’s hard to predict the growth of it as people experience this new environment with cloud DVR, linear, OTT—all of the possibilities are very positive.”

And let’s leave it at that.

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