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The Future of Media Unveiled: Highlights from the ANA Conference at Simulmedia

Jaime Singson
Jaime Singson  |  Senior Director, Product and Marketing
Updated: Jun. 03, 2024
Published: May. 30, 2024

The ANA conference, Unlocking Opportunity in the Evolving Television Landscape, hosted at the Simulmedia office, was nothing short of a revelation. As industry leaders gathered to discuss the rapidly evolving television landscape, the air was thick with anticipation and excitement. The conference was a melting pot of ideas, with each session shedding light on different facets of media, advertising, and programmatic TV strategies. Let's dive into the highlights from the first three sessions, starting with the thought-provoking "The Upfront is Dead, Long Live the Upfront."

The Upfront is Dead, Long Live the Upfront

The day kicked off with a bang as Jon Werther, CEO of Simulmedia, took the stage to moderate the opening session titled "The Upfront is Dead, Long Live the Upfront." Tamara Alesi, CEO of MediaPlus NAM, and Kevin Cahn, AVP & Head of Media COEs at Kepler Group, joined him. Together, they embarked on a thorough examination of the traditional concept of the upfront and its relevance in today's media environment.

Jon Werther CEO Simulmedia, Kevin Cahn Associate Vice President & Head of Media COEs Kepler Group, Tamara Alesi CEO Mediaplus NAM

Tamara Alesi’s opening remarks were nothing short of eye-opening: “60% of YouTube viewers are on the big screen these days,” she announced, highlighting a significant shift in viewer behavior. This statement set the tone for a session brimming with candid insights and bold predictions.

Alesi didn't hold back when addressing the current state of the upfront market. “Today, you have to also buy a lot of garbage when you buy in an upfront. You have to be okay with that,” she stated bluntly, pointing out the inefficiencies and compromises inherent in the traditional model. However, she quickly pivoted to underscore the importance of emerging platforms and flexibility in media planning.

The conversation then turned towards emerging players and trends. Alesi boldly predicted, “I think Amazon is going to be the network to watch in this Upfront.” This sentiment was echoed by many in the room as the tech giant continues to make significant inroads into the media space. She also highlighted the growing role of Connected TV (CTV), stating, “CTV will play a huge role in this year’s upfront.”

One of the most compelling parts of Alesi's presentation was her discussion on innovation and retail media. “The biggest innovation we'll see this month is commerce. Retail media takes 20% of the share right now; by next Christmas season, it will be 25-30%,” she predicted. This shift towards integrating commerce with media signals a new era of 'brandformance,' a term she elaborated on by saying, “We talk a lot in our agency today about brandformance. Everyone wants to know, 'What's your return?'”

Kevin Cahn complemented Alesi’s insights with his own perspective on the importance of testing and learning in media strategies. “Don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t be afraid to fail. There’s a lot of new stuff out there, and unless you’re testing, you’re not learning enough,” he advised. Cahn's emphasis on disciplined media practices resonated well with the audience. “All media drives outcomes if you can be disciplined in how you test, validate, and iterate,” he added, reinforcing the need for continuous improvement and adaptability.

Cahn also stressed the necessity of being agile in media planning. “Flexibility and the ability to bob and weave and change with your client is so important,” he emphasized, illustrating the need for agility in a fast-paced media landscape.

The session wrapped up with Alesi reiterating the importance of evaluating media investments through the lens of 'brandformance.' “You should look at how every single dollar you lay down is affecting brand and performance -- that’s why we call it brandformance,” she concluded, leaving the audience with a clear directive to balance brand building with performance metrics in their media strategies.

As attendees moved to the next session, the energy in the room was palpable. The discussions were not just about the death of the traditional upfront but also about the birth of new opportunities and the exciting future of media. This was just the beginning of a day filled with groundbreaking insights and thought-provoking conversations.

Programmatic Transparency Matters: Rebalancing Information Asymmetry

The second session of the day, titled "Programmatic Transparency Matters: Rebalancing Information Asymmetry," delved into the intricate world of programmatic advertising. As the speakers took their places, the audience braced themselves for a deep dive into one of the most pressing issues in digital advertising today.

Tom Triscari CEO, Programmatic Economist Lemonade Projects, Sabrina Traskos VP of Commercial Procurement Regeneron

Tom Triscari, CEO and Programmatic Economist at Lemonade Projects, moderated the session. He began with an overview of the ANA transparency paper, highlighting key findings and setting the stage for a robust discussion. He pointed out the significant shifts by major players like Google and Meta towards less transparency but with guaranteed outcomes, emphasizing the industry's evolving landscape.

Sabrina Traskos, VP of Commercial Procurement at Regeneron, opened with a provocative statement that immediately captured the room's attention: “As a procurement specialist, I will take guaranteed ROI any day over a transparent, non-guaranteed buy.” Her perspective highlighted a key tension in the industry: the balance between transparency and guaranteed outcomes. This sentiment was especially poignant given the recent moves by giants like Google and Meta towards less transparency in favor of assured results.

Traskos continued by shedding light on the inefficiencies she has observed in media buying. “For every hundred million dollars of creative and media we were buying, 40% was rework,” she explained. This reality of significant waste underscores the necessity for greater efficiency and accountability in the media buying process. She didn't shy away from illustrating the operational challenges procurement specialists face, adding, “We get more and more pressure to deliver shareholder value with less budget and fewer experienced marketers.”

A particularly memorable part of the session was Traskos's discussion on the concept of FOFO—fear of finding out. She explained that while brands often demand transparency, there is an underlying reluctance to fully embrace it. “When you ask regular consumers how many media companies they can recall reading, they may list about 6-8. So how do we justify the thousands of publishers in a typical media plan?” she asked. This fear of uncovering inefficiencies and waste is a significant barrier to true transparency.

Triscari added context to this discussion by questioning the growing reliance on proprietary trading. “How is it more and more money is going into proprietary trading when everyone is concerned about transparency?” he asked. Triscari's remarks pointed to the growing concern over the opaque nature of programmatic deals, where significant sums of money flow without clear visibility into where and how they are spent.

One of the session’s most intriguing moments came when Traskos recounted a conversation with a marketing colleague. Given the choice between a non-transparent buy with guaranteed ROI and a transparent buy without guaranteed ROI, her colleague preferred the latter. “I was shocked,” Traskos admitted. “But they wanted the data and insights from transparency because they questioned whether the reported ROI was real and believed the learnings would help them achieve more in the long run.” This tension between the immediate needs of procurement and the long-term goals of marketing highlighted a fundamental conflict within the industry.

Traskos vividly illustrated the practical challenges of programmatic advertising: “When we get into programmatic reporting, you get stuck in the weeds, lost in the mud, unable to see the stars.” This analogy perfectly encapsulates the frustrations many marketers feel when the minutiae of data bog them down without clear, actionable insights.

As the session drew to a close, Traskos and Triscari's dialogue underscored the urgent need for greater transparency and efficiency in programmatic advertising. They suggested that the path forward would require a concerted effort from all stakeholders to rebalance the information asymmetry that currently plagues the industry. The emphasis on transparency, efficiency, and accountability set the stage for the next discussions as attendees prepared to delve deeper into the digital transformation of television.

100% Digital TV Future is Here: Optimizing Experiences for Viewers (+ Brands)

Dani Cushion Chief Marketing Officer Innovid

The session titled "100% Digital TV Future is Here: Optimizing Experiences for Viewers (+ Brands)" was led by Dani Cushion, Chief Marketing Officer at Innovid. Cushion immediately set the stage by addressing the monumental shift from linear TV to a digital-first approach. “It’s a big ship to shift from the linear buying motion and the historic upfront to more of a first digital-first, dynamic motion. But this gap represents an enormous opportunity,” she remarked.

CTV impressions continue to grow rapidly

Cushion emphasized the evolution of Connected TV (CTV) and its unique challenges and opportunities. “We have imposed this heavy digital ecosystem on CTV, but it’s really an evolution of linear TV. When the dollars flow in, we can't be in a system where money is just going out the window, where advertisers don't know what they are spending their dollars on,” she stated, highlighting the need for efficiency and transparency.

CTV ad spend is catching up quickly to viewing time

A standout moment was her discussion on the year's buzzword: Shoppable Ads. “The buzzword of the year is Shoppable Ads — major auto drivers are using this to drive viewers to a dealership via QR code,” she noted, showcasing how this new ad format is transforming viewer engagement and driving tangible results.

Shoppable ad example

Cushion also touched on the importance of real-time measurement in digital TV. “You don’t have to wait weeks to act. Real-time measurement makes it all actionable,” she explained, stressing the importance of immediacy in optimizing advertising strategies.

Measurement: unified, granular and real-time

The session concluded with Cushion emphasizing the holistic approach needed for success in CTV. “It’s really important for us, when we all link arms and dollars start flowing into CTV, that the experience is good for brands, good for publishers, but most importantly, good for viewers,” she concluded, leaving attendees with a clear vision of a cohesive, efficient, and viewer-centric digital TV future.

The ANA conference at Simulmedia provided a wealth of insights into the evolving media landscape. From rethinking the upfronts and tackling programmatic transparency to embracing a digital-first TV future, the sessions were packed with actionable takeaways. Industry leaders shared predictions and practical advice, setting the stage for continued innovation in television advertising. Stay tuned for more highlights from the remaining sessions.