Will the Last Media Buyer at #NewFronts 2017 Please Turn Out the Lights

Will the Last Media Buyer at #NewFronts 2017 Please Turn Out the Lights

Author: Greg Jarboe / Source: Tubular Insights Digital Content NewFronts 2017 will be held in New York City from Monday, May 1st through

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Digital Content NewFronts 2017 will be held in New York City from Monday, May 1st through Friday, May 12th, and I’m going for pretty much the same reason that other people are finally flocking to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I want to see it before the Greatest Show on Earth comes to an end next month. I’m serious.

AOL, Digitas, Google/YouTube, Hulu, Microsoft Advertising, and Yahoo! created the first Digital Content NewFronts event back in February 2012 to “to shape a new and practical marketplace for connecting the wealth of native digital content with brand marketers and their media and marketing agencies.” In other words, they created a “new front” where media buyers who were already familiar with the TV upfronts could meet some online video content creators for the first time. So, this is one of those rare occasions when it would be appropriate to display a banner that reads “mission accomplished.”

NewFronts 2017: Programmatic Rules

Five years ago, eMarketer had just reported that U.S. online video ad spending had reached $2.16 billion in 2011. And the market research company said the total online ad spend – which included search and display advertising – was expected to grow 23% in 2012 to $39.5 billion in the U.S. This week, eMarketer reported that video ad spending reached $10.30 billion in 2016. Meanwhile, the market research company says US digital ad spending reached $72.09 billion in 2016, surpassing TV spending, which modestly grew to $71.29 billion. Now, a rising tide lifts all boats, right? Umm, not exactly.

In March 2017, Yahoo! canceled its presentation at the annual digital-video advertising pitchfest in New York City, but Twitter quickly grabbed its prime position in the 2017 Digital Content NewFronts lineup. Meanwhile, the event has grown from six presentations in 2012 to 35 presentations in 2017. And I plan to attend some – not all – of them. So, if you want to keep up with all the news coverage, then I recommend that you do what I do and read the stories in Adweek, which is the exclusive and official media partner for the NewFronts.

But, if I’m not there to report the news, then what are the strategic insights, critical data, tactical advice, and trends in the digital video marketing business that I hope to see and hear by attending some of the presentations in-person? Well, I have this theory. Actually, it’s more of a hypothesis, really. It hasn’t been inspired by anything that I’ve read lately, although it is inspired by reading “The Adventure of Silver Blaze,” one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s the one about the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. You know, that’s the story about the dog that didn’t bark when a race horse was removed from a stable. That was an important clue to solving the mystery.

Well, during all the brouhaha that was created when AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, and other big brands announced that they were boycotting YouTube, I noticed a curious incident. None of these big brands – and certainly none of their advertising agencies – fired even one lowly media buyer for running their TrueView in-stream ads on “hateful, offensive and derogatory content.” Everyone blamed YouTube. And this blame seemed well-placed when Google quickly introduced a number of “new tools for advertisers to more easily and consistently manage where their ads appear across YouTube and the web.”

So, what’s so curious about this incident? The fact that no one – and I mean no one – blamed even one lowly media buyer. That’s the dog that didn’t bark. Why aren’t media buyers even partially to blame for a number of cases where brands’ ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values? Because maybe they aren’t responsible for buying that much media on YouTube anymore.

Now, a few of them are still buying from other media companies. Or, I wouldn’t be going to this year’s Digital Content NewFronts to see if I can find the one. But, I suspect that the vast majority of human media buyers who once decided where to place ads on YouTube may have already been replaced by programmatic buying.

Manual Media Buying: On the Way Out?

If this has actually happened, then nobody has really paid much attention to this trend in the digital video marketing business – just like most of us didn’t pay much attention to…