DaimlerChrysler Wants to Dump US TV Upfront Ritual

28 March 2005

A transparent and open system for buying and selling TV ad time is demanded by DaimlerChrysler director of brand communication Julie Roehm.

She, like many others on the check-writing side of the business, wants to see the so-called TV 'Upfront' - the present system of cosy discussions and backroom deals - consigned to the trashcan of history.

Addressing the Association of National Advertisers' Television Advertising Forum in New York last week, Roehm condemned the current model as "good for networks but bad for clients", comparing it to a 1939 stock-and-cattle exchange. Instead she proposed a solution more akin to the Nasdaq trading system.

But many are wary of treating the medium as if it were some kind of commodity, ignoring added value factors such as promotions and other forms of support.

Former ANA chairman Jim Speros, chief marketing officer at Ernst & Young, was apparently not enthused: "It's saying a spot is a spot is a spot. I think the cable companies and networks only have money to lose in that case. ... [for advertisers] there could be a financial upside, but on the quality side of connecting objectives and programming to specific needs and working with networks as marketing partners rather than just vendors, I'm not sure it would make for a better system."

The Roehm proposal posits that networks place a minimum value on commercial pods, or spots, as companies do with shares prior to an initial public offering. Anonymous purchasers would then buy and sell the airtime at prices determined by the marketplace.

Networks would decide who participates in the auction by providing access codes for added-value offerings such as creative input and promotions.

And as Roehm emphasized, such a system would block the networks' unpopular practice of bundling - packaging highly sought-after spots with less attractive inventory. Instead, buyers would bid only on the slots and spots they want.

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff