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Ever wonder what upfront negotiations are like?

Initiative’s chief partnerships officer gives Marketing Brew the deets.
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· less than 3 min read

Ever wonder what upfront negotiations are like? Us, too.

Fortunately for all of us, Initiative’s chief partnerships officer, Maureen Bosetti, spilled the beans, walking us through not only all the changes in upfront negotiations since she started in the biz in 1994, but also the kinds of conversations that happen in the negotiating room.

(And it most certainly ain’t the dog and pony show of the upfront presentations.)

For starters, she used to have “direct managers, people leading the accounts…10–12 people in the room to hear the conversation,” she said. These days, to keep “a level of confidentiality,” there’s only one or two execs seated at the table.

When you oversee $8 billion of annual spend—with 30%–40% earmarked for the upfronts—it’s not surprising that media companies and agencies want to keep negotiations tight-lipped.

Bosetti also explained some of the finer points that are expected during negotiations: value, price, flexibility, audience guarantees.

“We have to make sure we are getting the best value that we can for that specific property,” she said. “And if we think it’s over-valued, maybe we won’t recommend it.”

Bosetti told us about what she calls “the complexion of the dollars.”

One year, she was negotiating with Fox, and it was a simple one-to-one negotiation: “That was it, they wanted more money, and we would negotiate the price.”

Now, she continued, buyers—especially in negotiating with the conglomerates—have a minefield of complexity to navigate; they have so many different options to buy, and clients have different goals for what their spend can do.

“The complexion of the dollars is now more about, they may not want as much in linear, right? The name of the game used to be, ‘I want more money in TV.’ Now, it's, ‘Maybe I don't want as much in TV,’ because they don’t have the capacity for it. I want less TV, I want more digital, I want more done through data, right? Because they have more data-driven TV,” she said.

And the timing for all these negotiations? Upfronts are like the NFL these days: never an off-season. Agency conversations kick off in January, Bosetti said, and can stretch to September.

“We probably start thinking about it again in December,” she said.

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