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What is an Upfront in advertising?

In TV advertising, the Upfront is the decades-old practice of buying and selling TV advertising time months in advance. Traditionally, these deals have taken place in the spring of each year, involving ad spots that would air in the coming television broadcast year. The highlight of the period has traditionally been the Network Upfronts, an annual, weeklong event in New York City where media ad placements are bought and sold. Major TV networks gather at the upfronts to pitch their seasonal TV lineup, in order to incentivize the advertisers to bid for an ad slot in their schedule. After the pitch, the networks’ and advertisers’ sales executives meet for negotiation.

Billions of advertising dollars are exchanged at the Upfronts, which is a crucial moment for brands with the budget to ensure they’ll get in front of TV audiences in the coming year. The name ‘Upfronts’ signifies the planning that goes into securing these ad slots, locking in the prices in advance of the season.

Most advertisers choose a marketing mix of placing ads in the Upfronts and in the Scatter market to reduce risk. With Upfront advertising, there is a risk that any given advertisement could perform poorly if the network’s show, around which the ad is placed, does not perform well with audiences. The popularity of a given show could make or break the cost effectiveness of the ad placed, which can only be loosely predicted using analysis of TV audience targeting data and sentiment.

Upfront contrasts with the scatter market, where remnant advertising is sold. In the scatter market, networks sell available ad slots closer to air time, at a less competitive price than the Upfronts. When the air time is very close and an ad slot is not yet sold, the network will put it up for a discounted price, a snag for brands looking to squeeze in their ads with a smaller budget.

Due to the surge in innovation in programmatic advertising technology, the scatter market is becoming a more accessible marketplace for many advertisers, procuring increasingly positive return on advertising spend (ROAS). However, the Upfronts remain a major annual advertising event where coveted ad slots are put up for grabs.

Today, linear TV, connected TV (CTV) and digital TV all participate in the Upfronts.The Upfronts alone are no longer sufficient to flesh out an entire season’s worth of ad dollars in a cost-efficient fashion. To that end, Simulmedia takes a cross-channel approach to developing, buying and measuring your advertising campaign with its TV+® platform.

Simulmedia’s patented, data-driven methodology can optimize traffic to your advertising campaign, pivoting and reallocating ad dollars as results require. In addition, as TV+ includes direct integrations with over 250 linear and CTV networks and publishers, your buying options can go beyond the offerings at the Upfronts to fill in the gaps wherever your target audiences’ eyeballs are.

Our proprietary TV+ platform’s technology runs through all the possible combinations for audiences, ad slots and networks, programs and platforms and offers you the most cost-efficient option given your budget. You’ll work with a Simulmedia account manager to optimize the campaign as results become available.

Ultimately, reaching your target audience where they actually are is key to driving campaign success. The Upfronts offer an opportunity to make big ad bets on big shows – at a price. What’s left is a slew of ad slots across both linear TV and CTV that Simulmedia analyzes for optimization – a cross-channel approach that eliminates the need to take big risks with your budget, allowing you to confidently execute audience-based media buys across the entire television landscape with speed and guaranteed scale that no one else can deliver.