Research Briefing: Marketers are set to increase their upfront spending this year

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In this edition of the Digiday+ Research Briefing, we examine how advertisers are approaching spend in the upfront market, what metrics marketers use to gauge ad campaign success on streaming platforms, and how brands, retailers and agencies are investing in programmatic ads, as seen in recent data from Digiday+ Research.

48% of marketers plan to increase their upfront spending

The yearly TV and streaming upfront event is taking place this week in New York City, and 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. 

Digiday’s survey found that the majority of marketers (51%) are planning on putting some of their budget toward the upfront marketplace. 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.

And when it comes to the shift between 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. 

The stats:

  • Fifty-eight percent of brand, retailer and agency pros said in Q2 2024 that they put marketing spend toward TV and streaming.
  • 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.
  • Nielsen will be the dominant measurement provider when it comes to currency during this year’s upfront event. 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.

Read more about marketers’ upfront spending

Digiday+ Research digest

Scarcity of streaming ad inventory appears to be less of a concern for marketers at this week’s upfront event than in the past. “There’s so much supply [of ad inventory] in streaming that, aside from sports, there isn’t that urgency there once was to secure [the ability to reach] audiences in the upfront,” said one executive at a major agency holding company. However, when marketers want to measure ad campaign success, impressions and engagement continue to outpace other metrics, as they have in past years. This is according to Digiday+ Research’s recent series on ad-supported streaming services.

Insights and stats:

  • Impressions and engagement/watch time were the top two success metrics advertisers consider on the three streaming services where they place the majority of ads — YouTube, Prime Video (with ads) and Hulu — for the second year in a row, according to Digiday’s Q1 2024 survey of 174 brand and agency professionals.
  • “Depending on the goal of our buy, we look at different success measures. We will look at brand lift for a campaign focused on awareness and/or consideration, as well as message association. For campaigns designed to drive a conversion/action, we will measure for CPA [cost per acquisition]. When we test new platforms, we often look at incremental IPs reached to understand the size of the audience that we are not reaching within our current mix.” — Victoria Vaynberg, CMO at Zola
  • Advertisers said cost of media is the largest roadblock they encounter on ad-supported streaming services, followed by lack of scale. Streaming ad prices average between the high $10s and low $20s per thousand impressions when buying against the most basic audience segment of anyone who’s at least 2 years old. The cream of the crop, such as Netflix and Disney+ Basic (with ads), charge as much as the low- to mid-$40s.

Read more about KPIs and challenges on streaming platforms

Programmatic marketers are settling in at the Digiday Programmatic Marketing Summit, taking place this week in Palm Springs, California, and Digiday+ Research surveyed brand, retailer and agency professionals in the first quarter of the year to get the lay of the land when it comes to programmatic advertising. Digiday found that programmatic advertising remains a stalwart among brands’ and retailers’ ad budgets, while the percentage of agency clients spending a lot on programmatic has actually been trending downward.

The stats:

  • Marketers are overwhelmingly investing in programmatic ads. More than three-quarters of brand and retailer pros (77%) said their companies currently use programmatic site display ads, and an even larger 80% of agency retailers said the same of their clients.
  • Many marketers are also increasing their investment in programmatic ads — 38% of brand and retailer pros and 42% of agency pros said they increased their programmatic spending budget this year compared to last year.
  • More brands spend a lot on programmatic ads while more agencies spend nothing. Twenty-four percent of brand and retailer pros said in Q1 2024 that their companies spend a large or very large portion of their marketing budgets on programmatic site display ads, up from 17% in Q3 2023. Meanwhile, 18% of agency pros said in Q1 2024 that their clients spend none of their marketing budgets on programmatic, up from 2% in Q3 2023.

Read more about marketers’ programmatic spending

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