An array of celebrities, marching bands, red carpets and glitzy outfits sounds like something you would find at a Tatler party. But it is also what the media industry has become accustomed to at this time of year.
We are in the middle of the upfronts season – a chance for media owners to woo agencies and advertisers with a preview of their plans for the year ahead, just as they prepare to negotiate annual trading deals.
Some sales teams spend six-figure sums on their upfronts because they regard them as the best opportunity of the year to pitch to the media industry.
A lot of digital media owners, including AOL, BuzzFeed and MailOnline, went first in October at the Internet Advertising Bureau Digital Upfronts. Now it is the turn of the TV giants.
Channel 4 kicks things off on 15 November at a new venue, The Roundhouse in Camden. The broadcaster expects a record attendance at what Matt Salmon, head of agency sales, is promising will be its "biggest, boldest and most ambitious" show yet.
Next is ITV, which will be at the London Palladium for a second year for its red-carpet gala with a bevy of TV stars on 24 November. Google’s YouTube will go last in December with its Brandcast upfront, hosted by James Corden. Previous Brandcasts in London have been lavish – in keeping with the US TV in-dustry, where the upfronts originated – and there is no doubt that Google has prompted UK media owners to put on a better show in recent years.
Some say the upfronts have little to do with trading. But Channel 4 and Group M struck an estimated £500m, two-year deal just weeks after last year’s presentations – proof that the timing matters.
Not all media owners or agencies feel a glitzy upfront is necessary. Sky hosts a series of lunches at wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd – a tradition that the broadcaster began a decade-and-a-half ago.
Chris Locke, managing director at Publicis Media Exchange, suggests smaller media owners that have jumped on the upfronts bandwagon would be wise to take a modest approach.
Locke warns: "The big stage works against them. They would be better to follow the Sky model of
‘less and often’ over ‘once and more’." He rates Global Radio’s discreet approach of going "agency
The messaging also needs to be right. Google’s claim last year that brands should move 24% of their TV budget to YouTube to reach 16- to 24-year-olds was met with