The Road to Upfronts

Hi everybody and welcome back to The Human Element Carat’s podcast focused on finding ways to inject humanity and insight into modern marketing. Today we have Cara Lewis, Chief Investment Officer, Jennifer Hungerbuhler, EVP Local and Audio Investment Lead, and Dave Sederbaum EVP Head of National Video to discuss the road to Upfronts this year.

Q: Tell us a bit about your roles and how they evolved over the past year.

Cara Lewis, Chief Investment Officer, dentsu

Over the past year, my role has significantly changed. I'm loving it with I think over 90 days at this point. But for the past few years, I had shared overseeing video investment with Dave and then I moved into overseeing all publisher direct across out of home video, local audio, Dr TV, and then moving into this new role, which is Chief Investment Officer, not only overseeing all the channels and investment, but other parts that play into investment like partnerships and economic   empowerment but loving the role.

Dave Sederbaum, EVP National Video Investment Lead, dentsu

Well, technically, my title has remained static. What I will say is that the role has certainly evolved and changed with the times I think  that as we all know, you know, consumer viewership patterns have changed, client expectations have changed, and things have just become  more complicated as things expand beyond what was once called activation and  now leads into investment. Right? So, it's about trying to include those strategic thinking at the beginning and end of every  conversation we have delivering on business outcomes, seeing how measurement and viewership patterns and changes have affected the marketplace. So, an ever-changing role. But I think that's what keeps it exciting. And that's definitely part of why I love it so much.

Jennifer Hungerbuhler, EVP  Local and Audio Investment Lead, dentsu

 I would have to second everything that David said, from a local perspective, it's really the exact same we are going through this total evolution. I think what's exciting for us, and what's kind of changing right now is having a seat at the upfront table. This isn't something that local traditionally has had historically. So, being invited to the meeting, sitting in being a part of the strategic conversations, trying to figure out how we can collaborate work together more efficiently, how can we craft partnerships that are going to benefit our client? So, I think that's one thing that's changed. And then the second thing that's really evolving is, you know, moving into the platforms and the programmatic space and being trained on buying programmatically when we've lived in this linear world for so long. It's very exciting, and it's challenging. So, a lot of exciting stuff, I think ahead for us.

 Q:  So, the team has been leading an internal series called Road to the Upfronts. Can you summarize the work that the team is doing around this?

Cara Lewis

I love road car fronds and talked about it today at our Dentsu summit, but essentially super proud of the series that  we created and it's definitely differentiating from years past. We created a series that's seven sessions long, covering off and really  diving deep into topics rather than glossing them over and presenting them on a slide. We've dug deep into topics around diversity and inclusion and going beyond the 30 and how can you actually support businesses that are diverse owned outside of just your 30 second unit, we talked about partners into platforms, we talked about temples, which   actually we have never truly done a huge meeting around temples and what they mean today, because they definitely have changed over time.  But I think the one thing that I'm most proud of is really bringing Jen and Dave's teams together to think about this around what is happening in the National Space is happening in the local space, or vice versa. It might look a little bit different because it's happening direct with a vendor or direct with a station or a market, but overall, what is happening really needs to be joined together and  I love that part of it. And my second piece that I truly love about the road today upfront is that we essentially are bringing our team front and center to be presenting across our client base. Our clients  only see those that work on their teams every day. And at Dentsu, we  have talent on every single team. And I'm super proud to get that all  of our employees in front of our clients because today they could work on Caesars Playbook, but tomorrow they could work on GM. And I think they all really need to see all of the amazing leadership that we have  that dentsu.

Q: Let's lean into some of those shifts that we're seeing. What have been the shifts in consumer trends that are impacting the road to Upfronts this year?

Dave Sederbaum

Consumer trends vary so much when you think about, are we talking about viewership patterns? Are we talking about how consumers interact with  content or how they're actually going to market and transacting  for their own personal life from an Ecommerce perspective? So I think that it's recognizing that consumers are in control something that Carat has said for years, right? So what we need to do is continue to  future proof ourselves and our clients to make sure that we're recognizing how people are most consuming their content, where are they doing their transactions, and making sure that we are formulating  our strategies against those consumers specifically. So I think that the pandemic has proved that it's an on-demand world where people are  really focused on what they want when they want it. So we have to use  our audience first approach and our screen agnostic approach to make sure that we are hitting the right people at the right time with the  right message. However, they're consuming content. So it's been an evolution something that we've been on for years, we're getting better and better at it with each day. And I think as long as we keep pushing ourselves to future proof ourselves, are headed in the right direction.

Q: So to follow up with that, Dave and Cara, you've been on plenty of interviews recently, around the transparency and measurement for brands and where that shift has been. Can you give a little bit of insight to our audience on recent conversations?

Cara Lewis

 I mean, I can jump in. In  terms of the measurement piece, and how we're making headway with transparency, but overall measurements at probably the deepest inflection point it's ever been at and we really need to find for our  clients and dig deep for our clients what the future of measurement is and we've done that by holding a series of meetings with all the  vendors that say they are the future of measurement, and really actually narrowing it down to a set that we think is worthy to test at  the moment, not saying some of the other companies aren't there in the  future, but they're just not ready to do it yet. We also did it across local national, it's important that we have both because local    is just as important and as national and making sure that we're measuring in the right way, and then getting closer to the client. And  I think with transparency, obviously, there's a lot of talk about transparent measurement and privacy and I think as we, you know move forward like we just did with NBC Universal, and matching IDs in a privacy safe way, we can actually work around what's happening in that  measurement and get more down to a one-to-one level to make our buys  more effective against the audience's we're trying to reach.

 Q: Jennifer,  you mentioned that local has a seat at the table this year, what has been the biggest impact in that shift?

Jennifer Hungerbuhler

Well, from a personal perspective, my knowledge growth has been exponential, just getting a peek behind the curtain of what really goes on behind the Upfronts and all the work that goes on behind the scenes, it's tremendous not  to mention the collaboration across multiple stakeholders to bring all of this money together across an entire client portfolio, it's really  been exciting to watch because the way local operates is completely different. And what's been unique is we've just had our first holding  company meeting with one of the networks to see if there was an opportunity for us to work together. And, and it was interesting, and  it was hard. It wasn't an easy, smooth, straight line and things we wanted, they said no, that wasn't even open for a discussion. It was challenging.  So, you know, it's us having to take a step back and say, okay, we can't get what we want. We need the jig and jag  to figure out how we can bring this together to find that incremental  value. So I think that this is going to be a year of trial and error. It's like the beginning. And we'll probably set some frameworks. We might have some successes, and we might have some failures. But we're really not going to know until we try it. So it's asking a lot  of questions. And it's very informative at this point. But it's  fun. It's really exciting, and just very proud to be a part of it.

Dave Sederbaum

The only thing that I would add to that is Jennifer said it perfectly with the one-word collaboration. It's about discussing what  we want, how we can work together in an open and honest dialogue. And  the good thing is that Jen and I have known each other quite well, for    some time. So we just talked about what do we want to put on the table   for the partners and to Jen's point, I was in the same meeting where they said no, okay, well, how can we pivot and adjust that to reinforce well, maybe no, is not the answer that we wanted to hear right now? Why don't we try to reimagine the conversation or think about things differently? So as much as we're pushing ourselves, we're      pushing our partners to think differently as well. And as we look at  full, holistic video, which is a statement that we always make, it's  also between teams and between departments breaking down those silos and pushing ourselves partners to think differently. So they might say no because they're uncomfortable and they're not used to doing things that way. But just as Jen said that some of the uncomfortability is because it's new, it  doesn't mean that it's wrong. So we just need to push ourselves and our clients, and I think that collaboration is the key.

Jennifer Hungerbuhler

Can I also just add to that, I also feel that the networks are trying to find their way through this as well, because it's not mainstream. So  even as we were having the conversations with them, they were okay, we  could try this, or we'll open to this or we'll have to take this back.  Because this is new, there isn't a roadmap that's already created, we're sort of creating it as we drive down the road.

Q: But why local now? Is there a shift in where we're seeing performance metrics or where brands want to be or  better resonate with consumers?

Jennifer Hungerbuhler

I mean, I can get my point of view from what I'm seeing is this past year? Well, let's take it back a step when the pandemic hit, there was a lot of consolidation that was  happening, and a lot of places, and there was a lot of streamlining that was going on. There's been a lot of consolidations and mergers at the network level, where now suddenly, they're looking to try to find new revenue streams, new ways to streamline their business model. And a lot of that is why do we have two people doing the same job, we should be doing this together and leverage all of our properties to bring a better value proposition. And likewise for us. So I mean, we've sort of done a lot of the same things that they've done there. I think what's very interesting for the first time I've ever seen is particularly around sports and the way sports were being sold at the network level it was you have to buy this, and these two extra pieces, or you can't buy your main thing you want to buy. And they started to do this at the network level. And I guess they've done this for a long time. And now that same process is trickling down to local. So a lot of the practices that have been happening nationally, are now being carried to local. So I call Dave all the time. I'm like, is this happening? Like, is this how this works, and then he sort of says, this is how we get around it and the things that we have to do, but that was like the first time I saw it. And then of course with like the digital the Ott, CTV, the geo targeting, everybody can sell everything now. So it is all very commingled. And as you know, even at our own agency, we have lots of people buying OTT CTV. And so the opportunity is there. It's just trying to figure out what everybody's swim lane is right now. That's my POV.

Cara Lewis

I think it's also about the collaboration across teams, like Jen said, a lot of people doing the  same thing and while it's not necessarily allowing someone to concentrate on buying local and national for the same person, because they are bought differently, and you do need those subject matter experts, we do also need to bring the conversations together and inform each other more often, because the same conversation is happening at a local level or national level. And to be honest with you same things happening in out of home digital, that is happening in  streaming audio, or just digital and programmatic. And we all basically need to be collaborating, because we can be stronger when we collaborate together.

 Dave Sederbaum

Exactly. I mean, they both not surprisingly said it perfectly. And it's about maximizing our leverage to the marketplace and bringing the full Dentsu cloud with everything that we have in our arsenal together. And I think it just makes the most sense for where we want to go as a company.

Q: Jenn, what about audio? What has been some of the biggest shifts that we'll see leading into upfronts?

Jennifer Hungerbuhler

From an audio perspective? Well, we're still in a recovery phase. I mean, coming out of the pandemic, audio was hit  very hard. Obviously, people are just now starting to commute again returned to Office. So in car listening was where the greatest amount of listenership was happening, and it really was impacted. So it's slowly getting back to where it was pre pandemic level. I think what's changing now is we are continuing to move dollars into digital audio, like we do see that that is a very huge growing area, podcasting is growing, buying these channels programmatically is growing. So I think  that audio is in sort of its golden age, and it is in a renaissance, it is kind of becoming fresh and new again, with a lot of the ideation. So I mean, personally, we are seeing a lot of our client’s kind of turn around and say wait, this, we are seeing good returns through our modeling in audio and we should be investing more and I think that it is forcing some of the bigger partners to innovate in this space more so that they can, you know, improve their revenue margins as well.

Q: Cara, what has been the biggest piece of advice you've been giving clients today around tentpole events?

Cara Lewis

And you know, I worked on a client back when we want it several years ago that had a lot of money scooped up in temples in multi years. And over the years, we cut back on those multiyear deals, and we pressured are tested, and said, we don't have the amount of money we've had in the past. And we don't want the amount of units we want in the past. And we'll get the amount of units that we had in the past with the under delivery because you overestimate. And so we've really been able to pressure the system to change the spend behind an overall temple. And I think we just have to while we might hear no, and Jen and Dave, we're just hearing no on the local front, we have to stay true to what    we need, and stick behind it, and just push and push and push. That's what I really tell clients is, you know, there's a point when  you need it, and you know, wanted as a part of your buy because your consumer might be their feeds to your objectives and your strategies and your branding. But there's a point when you don't want  to overpay, and you can find that audience somewhere else and by using audiences, and  if that client is in use using audience, we know  we can find that audience somewhere else. So it's really about being in the temple, the right place at the right time, and not really forcing something that can actually change and should change.

Dave Sederbaum

I would just add that we really want to reinforce that people need to think differently and just not focus on how they've traditionally looked at those temples as singular events that are giant reach drivers. What are they? How are they fitting into the overall objective? What areas can we move beyond just buying 30 seconds buy into the other platforms to truly make it transformative and moving the needle forward to make it worth some of that, that that high investment out of pocket costs that it's worthwhile. So I think that the presentation that we had was very well received was a challenging one to put together. Because as Cara started at the beginning, it was something different that we hadn't talked about before, in the same way that we are now. And I give credit to everyone  involved for putting such a comprehensive and really thoughtful outlook and approach on how to look at it, it was received well, because it was well thought out.

Q: What have been the biggest advancements in data lead investment today.

Dave Sederbaum

First and foremost, it is  something that has been talked about for a long time. And we don't you  know that that we feel that we are better equipped than anyone to  actually transact in the marketplace and I think that, that evolution    has come to really a tipping point where we'll see more of that truly taking place that it's not simply just using those that audience  dollars from a strategic and planning perspective at the beginning, we need to carry it through to activation and actual transaction. So we're actually making informed decisions, but then interacting with the marketplace based off those strategic audiences that that we have and then as Jen alluded to, as we move more things into platforms, we  can truly carry that through across the entire marketplace, managing  frequency truly optimizing against those audiences and various different platforms. So I think that we will see more transactions done this year than ever before, and then more done next year than this year. So we're really shifting away from that broad base demographic approach. And truly making sure that we're maximizing  each dollar we spend to focus on those truly high value strategic targets.

Cara Lewis

I think we've made one step in the last week, and an amazing direction in terms of taking our audiences, which I would say  M1 is the strongest audience base out there, being able to match them to a network ID basically or a network company ID and then to be able to transact and guarantee against it. If you want to get any more effective. I don't think you can. And we can actually bring our clients first party data into that to make it even more high fidelity in terms of finding our audiences where they're consuming the content  that we want to reach them at. So making strides, hopefully more announcements to come. But I think, you know, in the use of data measurement, getting stronger against the consumer and more one to one, I think you can't get any further than that.


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