The theme for this year’s International Advertising Bureau NewFronts was “Stream On,” which in IAB’s own words, “embodies the cultural zeitgeist of consumers’ penchant for digital video content when and how they want it.” In other words, the focus at NewFronts this year was all about how consumers use the many different streaming services available to them, how companies can take advantage, and what they have in store for the future.
NewFronts, like Television’s Upfronts, is the annual event where digital platforms present their upcoming programming to ad buyers. In a mix of livestream and virtual events that took place in New York City from May 2-5, the event included talks on the future of media, as well.
Here are some of the topics that were on everyone’s mind at NewFronts, and what it means going forward.
1. Talking up ACR data
The value and promise of connected televisions (CTV) and automatic content recognition (ACR) data were central at NewFronts week. While ACR data has been around for a few years, this will be the year the market fully realizes its true value. Paired with the surge in CTV inventory and content consumption, its first-party data is highly beneficial to addressable advertising, incremental reach and the ability to target streaming viewers outside of a linear campaign. This year, advertisers will proactively seek out planning and buying solutions that include this coveted data.
2. Netflix’s ad push
While Netflix wasn’t a NewFronts presenter, the streamer certainly dominated the conversation thanks to their recent advertising-based video on demand (AVOD) news. After all, Netflix is able to accelerate the AVOD market in a way few players can, and it recently came out that streaming ad spending jumped 57% to $15.2 billion last year.
But the question still remains: How will Netflix develop the ad tech infrastructure needed to enable ad-supported content? Will they build, buy or partner? Much of this is dependent on how deeply Reed Hastings, Netflix’s co-CEO, believes in ads as a business model. But AVOD is the future of CTV — with growth that now outpaces subscription video on demand (SVOD). Their competitors know that, given their NewFronts presentations. Expect Netflix to invest heavily now that other streaming giants are on notice.
3. Brand safety and Twitter
Granted, there was more to focus on at NewFronts than just streaming, such as Twitter’s pending acquisition by Elon Musk. All eyes were on the social media giant at this year’s NewFronts, where they claimed “it’s business as usual” and introduced a slate of new content deals. But Twitter is facing an uncertain future.
While user-generated content (UGC) platforms have relied on ads to drive revenue, brand safety challenges and freedom of speech concerns are increasingly at odds. UGCs are under growing pressure to provide more transparency on content moderation. In Twitter’s case, regulators and its new ownership seem to want more relaxed policies. The latter may be a sticking point with advertisers.
Expect more brands to reconsider UGC ad investments, especially amidst the war in Ukraine and upcoming midterm elections. Trusted connections beyond just brand safety have never been more important. Budgets could swing back to premium media and ad-supported CTV.
4. IDFA chatter continues
The Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) anniversary was last month — and advertisers remain concerned. Chatter about it continued at NewFronts as marketers compared notes on the impact.
While incredibly important, the deprecation of the IDFA or any other identifier has never really been just about digital privacy. It has also been about technology titan plays to gain an advantage in the next generation of hardware, content and advertising. Most ad companies have been scrambling to remain effective on an old user-identity model. Ad tech companies that can preserve consumer interests while helping publishers capitalize on their first-party audiences in a scalable, repeatable way will add outsized value to the consumers, advertisers and apps.
5. Pondering CTV identity
As cookies crumble on the open web and mobile app IDs face growing pressure, CTV identity was certainly on many people’s minds at this year’s NewFronts. According to recently-released IAB data, three out of four buyers said that CTV is a “must buy,” and CTV ad spend this year is expected to grow by 39% year over year to $21.2 billion.
For advertisers, the promise of CTV is the scale and impact of TV, the largest screen in the home, plus the 1:1 addressability of digital advertising. The consumer shift to streaming makes that first point all but assured, yet addressability in CTV is fragmented today, and will look different tomorrow. Upcoming privacy changes to desktop and mobile advertising will have an indirect impact on the ability to target and measure in CTV. To preserve and improve this valuable capability, advertisers will rely more than ever on persistent, future-proofed identifiers to unify their linear, CTV and other digital campaigns, and companies with direct consumer relationships will play a crucial role.
With so much turbulence across the industry, these were just some of the major topics discussed at NewFronts. All in all, it’s a busy time for companies as they grapple with changes big and small, and with companies like Twitter and Netflix experiencing major potential upheaval, it will be interesting to see how things shake up in the months ahead.