So, What Now? 5 Tips to Maximize Your Upfront Buys
03 May 2019 • tvsquared
Mark Hudson,
Head of Business Intelligence

While we’ve talked a lot about how the Upfronts still use ratings as a currency, today, we’re going to look at another issue – the Upfront “lock in.”

Upfront buys are highly restrictive, providing little-to-no opportunities to optimize for performance. For brands used to the dynamic nature of digital – where in-flight adjustments can be made to improve response – this is problematic. But too many advertisers still look at their Upfront buys as “one and done” because of that rigidity, and this is wrong! Here are five things you can do to ensure these buys lead to maximum impact:

  • Measure to optimize: We’re the first to say the keys to successful TV campaigns are measurement and optimization. Even though you’re locked in with Upfront buys, you should still be continuously measuring to optimize … just down the line. Understand the performance of your Upfront buys (by day, daypart, program, genre, channel and creative) and then apply those learnings to future Upfronts, other TV buys (think scatter, clearance, etc.) and the inevitable make-good … 
  • Make good on your make-goods: With your Upfront buy, the network guarantees you’ll get in front of an agreed-upon number of viewers. When that doesn’t happen, you get a make-good, a spot ADU (audience deficiency unit) other than the program you bought to make up the difference in impressions. But don’t passively accept anything the network gives you! Since you’re already measuring TV performance, be prepared to ask for inventory that will bring you value. Make-goods are a chance to get in front of more “eyeballs,” but more importantly, they can get you in front of the best audience for your brand, in the times and places that will drive action. So, be ready!
  • Ask for proof of performance: Networks are increasingly adopting transparent, timely data analytics to provide advertisers with proof of performance (it’s about time!) and, ultimately, win and retain ad dollars. Ask your network contacts about how they measure performance and, if they do, where the data comes from. While you should be doing your own independent measurement, take advantage of any proof of performance programs the network might offer – as anything that can help you tie TV to business outcomes is a good thing.
  • Be vigilant: You must be invested in the TV buying process – even after the buy is made. Track your ad placements to confirm they run when they’re supposed to, and keep on top of schedule changes. The weeks and months after the Upfronts are the most volatile scheduling periods, when programs and time slots are constantly changing. You’ve invested a lot in these buys, make sure you get what you paid for.
  • Explore cross-platform options: Viewers have come to expect additional, (but consistent) content on digital platforms, and most networks are no longer limited to just linear. Explore other network properties to see where added exposures will bring value to your brand (maybe alongside the program that’s driving strong response for you!). This can be done at any time; you’re not limited to just Upfronts week.