THE BLOG
05/05/2014 01:23 pm ET Updated Jul 05, 2014

From Generation X to Millennials and Upfront to NewFront: The Digital Disruption

One of the oldest rituals in the broadcast world is the "upfront" pitch to ad buyers. An image of Don Draper in Mad Men comes to mind -- the curtain rises, the agency stands up and its protagonist delivers the perfect Draper-esque pitch in that high-pressure moment. While it has never been that easy, the industry has gone through a number of twists and turns in recent years that makes the perfect pitch even more elusive. And which audience is the perfect pitch being targeted at?

These days it's increasingly the millennials, with an estimated population of more than 80 million. And they are growing up and becoming powerful in the way that matters most to advertisers with 21 percent of discretionary consumer purchasing power. The fascination of millennials with all things social and digital -- commenting and sharing via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr -- is a given. What is more subtle is that because they grew up with technology, there is an expectation of instant gratification with products and services, and of course ads (that increasingly don't look like ads), which are personalized just for them. For millennials, online and on smartphones are how they consume content, causing tried-and-true print and television advertising business models to be turned upside down.

In the area of digital brands and traditional TV, an area which has gained legitimacy for its ability to span both mediums, is the NewFronts. This is shorthand for the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Digital Content NewFronts, a series of two dozen presentations in New York by a lineup of heavy hitters and newcomers focused on influencing the flow of advertising dollar investment. This marks the fourth year of the NewFronts, the digital/video version of the upfront season from the broadcast and cable world. This year kicked off in New York on April 28 and will run until May 7. Major content companies and platforms including Hulu, YouTube and Buzzfeed, as well as publishers like CondeNast, Time and the New York Times are all getting in on the action.

Although the digital sector remains a fraction of the total ad pie, it is gaining attention as total spending on digital ads climbs and millennials are targeted. With ad dollars flowing downstream from television to online digital video, more and more companies are embracing the trend. Forrester reports that video ad spending surpassed $3.6 billion in the U.S. alone last year. The gap between TV ads and online digital is shrinking, but according to eMarketer, both are poised to grow in the coming years and in the U.S., the firm predicts TV ads will hit $68 billion in 2014.

As online video advertising has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry, marketers and content publishers are stressing the parallel between TV and online video ads with NewFronts being a key component. As budgets shift from television to digital, brands and agencies need to address both at the same time. The pitch to advertisers is that online video can deliver a more personalized experience for individual consumers and combines personalization with programmatic ad buying.

What no one can argue is that the future of media and advertising business models -- or for that matter, business models in any industry -- is delivering personalized experiences served to consumers across multiple relevant platforms and distribution channels. In the media world, there is so much consumer fatigue that ads seldom hit consumers with the right message at the right time. We are far too busy to care about the ad in any real way -- even when that content is coming from a brand we know and trust. The only way advertising will continue to be relevant in the future is if it can adapt to modern preferences and rise above ever-increasing competition for consumer attention.

So who's getting in on the Newfront action? If you are a company creating original content to attract increasingly fickle consumers and advertisers, you're bound to be paying attention.