his year, I attended about 10 out of the 34 presentations at this year’s Digital Content NewFronts. (Actually, I attended 11 – because The New York Times held two events, but it only listed one of them on the official IAB agenda.) By combining what I saw and heard with a quick review of the 629 articles about the 2017 Digital Content NewFronts, I believe that I’m in a fairly solid position to select the top 10 takeaways from the 10-day marketplace.
Now, what follows isn’t “all the news that’s fit to print.” But, hopefully this article does contain strategic insights, critical data, and trends in the digital video marketing business. That’s always been my objective. So, without further ado, here are my top ten takeaways from actually attending about a third of the #NewFronts2017 events:
NewFronts 2017: Top 10 Takeaways
#1 More new digital video content than you can shake a stick at. Most presenters used the 2017 Digital Content NewFronts to showcase new star-studded shows for audiences around the globe. For example, Time Inc. unveiled a baker’s dozen new initiatives. Group Nine also introduced a baker’s dozen new programs. And YouTube announced seven new ad-supported shows: “Ellen’s Show Me More Show” starring Ellen DeGeneres, “Good Mythical Morning” starring Rhett and Link, “What the Fit?” starring Kevin Hart, “I Am” starring Demi Lovato, “Best.Cover.Ever.” starring Ludacris, “The Super Slow Show” starring The Slow Mo Guys, and “Katy Perry Live Special” starring Katy Perry. So, brands and media buyers can select from more new digital video content than you can shake a stick at.
#2 Johnson & Johnson declares victory and is advertising on YouTube again. Back in March, I wrote a memo to Johnson & Johnson and other big brands that were boycotting YouTube. After Philipp Schindler, Google’s Chief Business Officer, apologized and announced that Google was conducting “an extensive review of our advertising policies and tools,” I suggested that these big brands adopt the “Aiken formula” for ending the Vietnam War: “Declare victory and bring the troops home.” Well, during its Brandcast event, YouTube announced that Johnson & Johnson Consumer Brands will be the exclusive sponsor of “Best.Cover.Ever.” The big brand is also making a major investment in YouTube creators through Google Preferred. So, it looks like Johnson & Johnson has declared victory and is advertising on YouTube again.
#3 The reports of Twitter’s death are greatly exaggerated. Twitter unveiled a dozen new premium live streaming video content deals across news, sports, and entertainment at its first-ever Digital Content NewFronts presentation. I covered the joint announcement with Bloomberg Media, but deals were also announced with BuzzFeed News, the WNBA, MLBAM, the PGA TOUR, Live Nation, and half a dozen others. Twitter COO Anthony Noto said, “Last quarter, we streamed over 800 hours of live premium content from leading brands across sports, esports, news, and entertainment.” The new collaborations will bring hundreds of hours of new exclusive live original programming, live games and events, live syndications, extensions of existing live deals, and new always-on live streaming premium content to the platform. So, the reports of Twitter’s death are greatly exaggerated.
#4 Who are those guys? I mentioned that Group Nine Media introduced a baker’s dozen new programs. Who are those guys? Well, it is a family of digital media brands (NowThis, The Dodo, Seeker, and Thrillist) built for the mobile, social, and video-first world. Their videos got 3.3 billion (with a “b”) views in April 2017. That puts the media and entertainment property that many video marketers have never heard of ahead of Comcast, which ranked #9 with just under 3 billion views. And if you rank the top media and entertainment properties by engagements, then Group Nine ranked #1 in April with 96 million social actions. That puts the privately held company created in October 2016 ahead of the Walt Disney Company, which ranked #2. So, Group Nine isn’t a household name – yet – but it is scaling up at a breakneck pace.
#5 When they say “brand safe environment” they really mean “unlike YouTube.” Several media powerhouses, including The New York Times, emphasized that they offered advertisers a “brand safe environment.” Using the slogan, “Truth + Dare” (that’s Truth and Dare, not Truth or Dare), The Times showcased its content creators – who are still called journalists – and let them tell their stories about the many ways they work to find the “truth” – from the front lines of the war on terror to the inner workings of investigating the world’s most powerful governments. The Times was hoping that brands and media buyers will “dare” to stand with that expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness when they think about the best ways to tell their own stories. In other words, when they said “brand safe environment” they really meant “unlike YouTube.”
#6 When they say “fake news” they really mean is “Facebook.” Several traditional media companies, including Time Inc. and BBC.com, talked about what they were doing to combat “fake news.” Using the slogan, “Get real,” Time Inc. asserted that its properties could be trusted amid the furor over fake news in social media. BBC.com said that it was combating fake news with “slow news,” which means more in depth analysis of topics, putting events into context, as well as providing audiences with the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ behind the news headlines. In other words, when they said “fake news” they really meant “Facebook,” which wasn’t a presenter at the 2017 Digital Content NewFronts.
#7 Why hasn’t Facebook ever been a presenter at the Digital Content NewFronts? According to the fourth annual “Digital Content NewFronts: Video Ad Spend Study,” advertiser investment in original digital video programming has nearly doubled over the past two years with 80% of brand and agency executives are planning to spend even more on original digital video this year. Confirming the role that the Digital Content NewFronts plays in media buying decisions, 88 percent of advertisers said that they increased their original digital video budget as a result of attending the 2016 NewFronts. And 77 percent agreed that the 2016 NewFronts encouraged them to investigate ways to incorporate VR or 360-degree video advertising into their marketing strategy. So, why hasn’t Facebook ever been a presenter at the Digital Content NewFronts?
#8 Streaming enabled TVs have changed the way Americans watch television. During the IAB NewFronts Insights Luncheon (which I attended), the organization released “The Changing TV Experience: 2017,” a comprehensive study revealing that 56 percent of U.S. adults own a Streaming Enabled TV. Among these adults, watching digital video on Streaming Enabled TVs became an entrenched habit in 2017, with 46 percent saying they do so daily. This is a significant increase from 32 percent in 2015 (and the highest daily usage among all digital screens over this same time). Chris Kuist, the Senior Vice President of Research and Impact at the IAB, told luncheon attendees, “Streaming Enabled TVs have changed the way Americans watch television.”
#9 They are world famous on YouTube. Both traditional celebs and “internet-famous” YouTube creators are gaining fans on multiple platforms. The best example of this was Casey Neistat, who teased his CNN project at the Turner event (wearing a t-shirt) the same day he appeared at the YouTube Brandcast event (wearing a suit). But, he wasn’t the only cross-platform celebrity who was featured at one of the #NewFronts2017 events. Ellen DeGeneres, who has hosted her syndicated TV talk show since 2003, also turned up a Brandcast, while the design guru team known as Mr. Kate, which has 1.1 million subscribers on YouTube, announced a new show called Office Goals on the Entrepreneur Network. What do they have in common? They are world famous on YouTube.
#10 Media buyers are alive and well and living in New York. Back in April, I hypothesized 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. Boy, was I wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. At #NewFronts2017 events, I talked with lots of media buyers. And I learned why programmatic buying hadn’t decimated their jobs. Although agency executives had expected programmatic buying to reduce their headcount and costs, that hasn’t happened – because there are 97 different flavors of ad-tech and agencies still need people who know how to use duct tape and bailing wire to place video ads. So, that’s why media buyers are alive and well and living in New York.
In addition to discovering that one of my was assumptions going into #NewFronts2017 was wrong , I also didn’t attend more than two-thirds of the presentations held in New York City the first two weeks of May. So, this article doesn’t pretend to be a complete description of the topic. However, if you want something more comprehensive, then read and analyze “2017 Digital Content NewFronts in the News.” It is IAB’s curated list of 629 articles about the 34 presentations made during the 10-day marketplace. (You’ll discover that nine of them were written by me for Tubular Insights.) Or, check out the 59 video interviews conducted by Beet.TV for the IAB. You can find them at “2017 Digital Content NewFronts Video Highlights.”