Digiday+ Research: How advertisers are approaching spend in the upfront market

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It’s that time again: The yearly upfront event is taking place this week. As the TV and streaming landscapes continue a massive shift, it will be important to keep an eye on how marketers’ upfront spending shakes out.

Digiday+ Research surveyed brand, retailer and agency professionals earlier in the second quarter to get an idea of how marketers plan to spend around this year’s upfront presentations.

To set the scene, Digiday’s survey found that the majority of marketers are currently investing in TV. Fifty-eight percent of brand, retail and agency marketers said earlier in the quarter that they include TV in their budgets, including streaming platforms. (You can read more on how marketers are investing in advertising on streaming platforms in our recent series.)

Now to this week’s upfront event: The majority of marketers are also planning on putting some of their budget toward the upfront marketplace. Fifty-one percent of brand, retailer and agency pros said they plan to spend during this year’s upfront.

In fact, the percentage of marketers who have upfront spending in the works has been trending upward over the last few years, and this year marks the first in which more marketers plan to spend during the upfront event than not. The upward trend here has been fairly steep: 51% of brand, retailer and agency pros said this year that they plan on putting marketing spend into the upfront, up from 37% in 2023 and 29% in 2022.

Not only are more marketers planning to spend during this week’s upfront event, but Digiday’s survey also found that they plan on spending more this year than they did last year. Forty-eight percent of brand, retailer and agency pros said their upfront spend will be greater in 2024 than it was in 2023.

Although it is worth noting that most of those respondents plan to spend somewhat more this year, as opposed to significantly more. Forty-five percent of brand, retailer and agency pros told Digiday that they will spend somewhat more during this year’s upfront event than they did last year, while only 3% said they will spend significantly more. Just over a third (35%) said their upfront spending will be about the same this year as it was last year.

And speaking of that massive shift in TV and streaming, it should come as no surprise that Digiday’s survey found that most of marketers’ upfront spending this year will be on streaming platforms rather than on TV networks. Well over half of brand, retailer and agency pros (58%) said they will spend more on streaming than on TV during this week’s upfront event, with just over a third (34%) saying they’ll spend somewhat more on streaming than on TV and just under a quarter (24%) saying they’ll spend much more on streaming.

Slightly more than a quarter of marketers (27%) told Digiday that their upfront spending will be about evenly split between streaming platforms and TV networks. And just 14% said they’ll spend either somewhat more or much more on TV networks than on streaming platforms.

Also not surprising is that Nielsen will be the dominant measurement provider when it comes to currency during this year’s upfront event, according to Digiday’s survey. Fifty-eight percent of brand, retailer and agency pros said that they will support Nielsen as a currency this year, and 52% said Nielsen will be their primary currency during the upfront this week.

Comscore came in second behind Nielsen, with 46% of marketers saying they will support the measurement provider as a currency during this year’s upfront event and 16% saying it will be their primary currency. Oracle Moat gets an honorable mention, with 21% of brand, retailer and agency pros saying they’ll support the measurement provider as a currency this year (putting it in a three-way tie for third place with VideoAmp and iSpot.tv) and 7% saying Oracle Moat will be their primary currency (putting it in fourth place behind Digiday’s “other” response).

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