In New York today, the annual television pageant known as the “upfronts” launches its big week. All the major TV networks will throw big parties to introduce their fall schedules to corporate advertisers.
But forget for a moment all the hype around the actual TV shows that will be announced this week. If you want some predictions about the health of the American consumer, pay attention to what will fill the little 30 to 60 second spaces between those shows.
Upfronts are a chance for major brands to lock in the ad dollars they're willing to spend next fall. The amount of those dollars, explains media consultant Jack Myers, “is a reflection of the long term economic prospects, how marketers are looking at the future, and where the growth is.”
Or where the growth isn’t: Brian Steinberg, Senior TV editor at Variety, notes that in the last few weeks several consumer brands—Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group, Procter & Gamble, Hershey—have announced plans to tamp down marketing spending.
“You have a fragile consumer, and advertisers who are very wary of not pushing them too much because they don't want to turn them off,” Steinberg says.
The stock market may be on an upswing lately, says Steinberg, but advertisers aren't sure average Americans are.
Still, even if advertisers are containing their confidence about consumer spending, it’s not like there will be gaping holes where the commercials are supposed to be when you turn on the TV next fall.
Michael Learmonth, Advertising Age’s Deputy Managing Editor, says regardless of the economy or the growing importance of advertising on digital platforms from YouTube to Netflix, ultimately, big companies need to build some advertising spending in to premium television. So they can, you know, “do things like – open a movie in the fall, sell a new smartphone or move product off grocery shelves.”