MCN boss Mark Frain slams upfronts as 'outdated'

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 13 December 2018

Multi Channel Network (MCN) CEO Mark Frain has slammed the upfront model, labelling the event "outdated", adding it no longer fits into the modern marketing strategy.

At a panel event joint-hosted by the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) and ThinkTV, sales bosses from across the TV industry came together to discuss the importance of the medium in the marketing mix.

After hearing the three key points from the major networks' respective upfronts, Frain, who currently operates the sales house for Foxtel which has not hosted an upfront this year, said it was time that the networks reassessed how they approached the yearly event.

Up until this year MCN had been hosting bespoke annual upfronts-style events which were created for individual agencies and partners. They ran over weeks and were held at top locations such as a listed mansion in Valcluse.

"The upfront model is outdated. If I look at where marketers and the industry are right now, you make decisions every day, week and quarter and it's disappointing that you have to commit volumes of spend based on announcements from one night," Frain said.

"We have to change moving forward and work to a more 'always on' strategy, where these networks are continuously updating their content and technology."

Frain added that clients and agencies can't be expected to invest large sums of their annual spend based on one event as it didn't match up with the day-to-day spend cycle.

He said there needed to be more frequency when it came to updating the market on what the major networks were doing, stating it was about hosting events "more often, with more impact".

This matches up with Foxtel's current strategy, which has seen the pay TV network roll out multiple new technologies, content and strategy updates at multiple events throughout the year.

"Yes, we are moving towards doing that but to still have one big hit a year and say 'spend more of your money with Seven, Nine, Ten or Foxtel', it doesn't work," Frain said.

"Whether client or agency, everyone says there is more disposable money that comes up on prime needs and the upfront model doesn't really match that spend pattern."

Nine group content strategy director Lizzie Young, who represented the network on the panel, fired back defending the yearly strategy, labelling Frain "the Christmas Grinch".

"You know what is great about the upfronts though, particularly culturally? It gets stuff done," she said.

"I can tell you, we got 9Voyager (the network's self-serve platform for TV) built because we had a deadline. If it was understood that we were going to announce it at one key event, then we get it done by then."

Ten chief sales officer Rod Prosser agreed but remarked that it could possibly be done with more frequently.

Keep an eye on AdNews for more from the event.

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