Day Two General Session – Digital Bread Crumbs

From left to right: Moderator: Maria Bartiromo (CNBC), Bill Tucker (MediaVest USA), Tim Spengler (Initiative) and Bill Koenigsberg (Horizon Media).

It’s always befuddled me a little how the worlds of cable ad sales and cable operations seem to sometimes run on parallel tracks.  I know I’ve had personal conversations with cable ad sales people here in Chicago, a Comcast town, in which I use the name “Brian Roberts,” only to find it draws some blank stares.

Similarly, some of the most powerful and important people in this industry – namely, the media buyers at some of the biggest agencies in the country– are sometimes unknown to the at-large cable population.

Today, I saw an example of this disconnect.  At the final segment of the Day Two General Session, CAB’s Sean Cunningham introduced a panel of three of the most important media buyers on the planet, Bill Koenigsberg of Horizon Media, Tim Spengler of Intiative and MediaVest’s Bill Tucker, along with moderator, Maria Bartiromo.

What I found most ironic was the fact that for two days I’d been hearing people speculating on how new technology, wireless devices and mobility might influence consumer behavior. Yet, by the time three guys took the stage  – key folks who are so good at what they do that advertisers give them significant dollars every quarter to invest on their behalf – some audience members had left.

It turned out to be my single most enlightening session of the show so far.

Among the highlights:

  • When asked, generally, where the money was headed, Tucker said it was clearly moving to cable, adding that a significant portion is also moving to digital.
  • Koenigsberg agreed, saying that during this year’s upfront, cable outperformed broadcast for the first time ever.  He then added that there’s also dollars being poured into online video and “the social bucket.”
  • Spengler said demand is up, so prices are up.
  • All three called for caution moving forward. For the second half of 2011 and early 2012, Tucker said there’s a “soft patch” in the road ahead and that consumers – and advertisers – will be cautious.
  • Koenigsberg said the jury’s still out on the second half of the year and that he sensed “fear in the scatter market.”  He added that while the auto sector is strong, job growth and unemployment remain a concern for advertisers.
  • He also said that while the ad market remains strong, that strength is relative to some major cutbacks that advertisers made a few years back.  What’s more, he said the upfront’s strength should not be mistaken for a barometer of the future, which remains a little hazy.
  • Tucker said that measurement is not keeping up with technology, and it needs to – especially in a three-screen world.  He also said social media must become embraced more fully by the measuring metrics.  “The digital bread crumbs are there,” he said.
  • Spengler said it’s not who’s watching, it’s who’s taking an action based on what they’re watching: “We’re investing heavily in trying to find that data.”
  • He also said that social media are helping define brands, and that those brands are now operating, as we all are, in a mobile and social world.
  • Koenigsberg called for a common social currency.  “What are we trading on?” he asked;  “In a world in which billions are being invested, we need consistency.”

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