“When advertisers can’t predict what’s going to happen in July, it’s hard to make any substantial commitments for the remainder of the year,” said Christian Juhl, the global chief executive of GroupM. “The underlying economic understanding just isn’t in place right now for people to make a good bet.”
The reluctance to lock down long-term contracts has already led to calls for television networks to adjust how they sell space for commercials during the broadcast year, which starts in October. This week, while previewing programs during their Newfront presentations, many digital platforms tried to address the uncertainty by promising performance guarantees and flexibility in contracts.
Roku offered clients a range of options, including 14-day cancellations and the ability to quickly remove ads from areas where they are no longer relevant (for example, if local stay-at-home guidelines shift).
“The beauty of digital has always been the flexibility and fluidity; unlike linear television, where you commit to a year and you have some limited flexibility, there is a lot more agility built into the digital ecosystem,” said David Cohen, the president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau trade group, which organizes the Newfronts.
But this year, he said, “regardless of the media type, there’s not going to be a wholesale appetite for committing to a long-term deal without the opportunity to optimize or cancel based on business performance.”
The presentations also promoted technology that would allow viewers to shop directly from commercials. Using QR codes and push notifications on smartphones, Hulu said, viewers will be able to buy directly from companies like Sweetgreen and TheRealReal through ads made using its new GatewayGo format. Condé Nast’s Prime Shoppable technology will be featured in online programs from Vogue and GQ. “The Drop,” a show on Snapchat, will feature fashion collaborations that viewers can purchase while watching.
More than 12,500 people registered for the NewFronts, which wrapped up on Friday afternoon with a plea from the event’s host, the comedian Scott Rogowsky. “If you’re a brand, don’t be scared,” he said. “Stand up — this is your moment.”
Mike Isaac contributed reporting.