11/29/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Accountability and a New Vision for the Upfront. Part 3 of Jack Myers' 2003 Vision for the Future of Media and Advertising

In 2003, I met with a group of my clients and followers and shared my vision for the future of media, marketing and advertising. The following Classic Jack commentary is excerpted from that presentation. Read Part 1 and 2 at

Forward thinking media companies are already shifting their obsession away from eyeball delivery and toward identifying their clients’ best customers, understanding their needs, and building customized marketing relationships with them. In the digital age, the tools will be available to place more focus on return-on-marketing investment; decision-making based on cost efficiency and mass reach alone will no longer be acceptable.

These issues and opportunities may seem far off -- remote from the day-to-day realities you’re dealing with. But one issue that seems to be on the top of everyone’s mind these days in media and advertising is accountability. Accountability is the most important word in business today, whether it’s accountability of CEOs to shareholders… accountability of media companies to deliver measurable return-on-investment… accountability of corporate procurement agents to deliver maximum cost efficiencies… or your accountability to deliver on your goals.

So let’s talk about the Upfront. It’s become pop culture; just a few years ago, anyone outside of the TV advertising business, and even many people in our business, never heard of the Upfront. In the next few months, the general consumer press will regularly update readers on Upfront spending; Wall Street analysts track Upfront and scatter markets as closely as they track commodities on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. And at the same time, there’s pressure from inside the industry to dismantle or at the very least dramatically alter the Upfront, with experts arguing it’s broken.

Personally, I believe the Upfront works extremely well and serves the long-term interests of marketers, agencies and TV networks. You develop your promotion plans, sales strategies, event programs, and marketing plans at least eighteen months in advance. Rather than assuming the Upfront is broken, why not consider a five year transitional plan to focus the Upfront deal-making process on relationships between marketers and media -- all media. Return the Upfront to its original roots, identifying the cross-media and promotional deals that best help sell products.

For the past three decades at least, the fundamental skills and qualities required to be an advertising executive have been changing as media and marketing have transitioned from the industrial age mass focus to the Relationship Age.

In 1969 the #1 best selling business book was The Peter Principle. The Peter Principle said “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”

Before The Peter Principle attacked the concept, people actually aspired to reach their level of incompetence. It was like a gold watch, signifying survival and achievement. Maybe the publication of “The Peter Principle” was the beginning of a new age, when corporations and executives could no longer tolerate redundancy, the same decisions year in and year out… precedent and tradition became less reliable guides for decision-making… we could no longer assume the future would have some resemblance to the past… and we really had to take risks and make changes if we wanted our businesses to grow.

Corporations can no longer tolerate executives who have reached their Peter Principle or who keep it simple. and this is a real change in business. That’s not to say incompetence doesn’t exist anymore. But, as a media buyer or planner – or salesperson -- you need to competently deal with a constant barrage of new challenges.

Business, especially the media business, is not simple. Incompetence can no longer be tolerated. To the smart go the spoils. One of the biggest and most important changes that technology is empowering in your business is improved intelligence for making smart decisions. We’re transitioning from basic scans of TV and radio audience size, total magazine readers, to deep sonar readings that will help us navigate new media consumption patterns. You will have a wealth of access to insights and knowledge that will empower expanded and enlightened thinking. You will have the ability to be clever, creative, and think out of the box with minimal risk and maximum confidence.

You need to look toward the future with assurance that there’s a better way of doing things than the way you’ve always done them. And if you develop your ideas, you’ll have resources to justify new approaches that may be complex, but will be smart.

Jack Myers is available to present his vision for the future of media, advertising and marketing at your corporate meetings and events. Contact and visit for more information.

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