GE’s Linda Boff on Why Upfronts Needs to Be Uniquely Tailored to Different Marketers

Because the model as it stands is rife with challenges

Linda Boff shared her thoughts on what we can expect from this year's upfronts. - Credit by Courtesy Ad Council
Headshot of B. Bonin Bough

Author, consultant and TV host, Bonin Bough, is our Adweek Advisory Board chairman. He will be spotlighting three Advisory Board members per month on relevant industry news and trends.

I spoke with our Adweek Advisory Board members on the future of upfronts and their thoughts around the annual event.

Brands and media sellers should use them as a chance to understand how they can partner to mutually drive both of their business’ goals. It should be about more than just adding to their media inventory.

These partnerships can take many forms, but at every step we should think about the data opportunities, driving new in-store possibilities, building out APIs and co-developing integrations.

I spoke to Linda Boff, CMO, vp of culture and talent at GE, about the role marketers play in upfronts.


Bonin Bough: What is the most important issue that do you think the industry is going to face in this year’s upfront?
Linda Boff: I think it’s literally making that case for why advertisers are going to get a true return on attention, a true return on engagement given the number of choices that viewers have, given the number of cord cutters, given that it is so hard on broadcast-layer television to garner the type of audiences that we once all were accustomed to. I think it’s challenging. Not impossible. But I think it’s a really challenging issue to put forward that clear value prop of how engaged this audience is in what we think of as television, despite the number of eyeballs that remain high; despite, in some cases, some compelling viewership. I just think attention, as it relates to advertising, is a soft spot.

Do you have any thoughts on what might be different with negotiations this year versus last?
I think that publications in particular … should probably feel a little more confident going into negotiations with Facebook and Google. I think they probably have a little more leverage given the landscape that we’re in. So, I would say that’s one thing. I think the last year has shined so many lights, and again, GE remains full-ish on online advertising. We’ve certainly continued to advertise on Facebook and Google and Twitter, but I do think there’s probably going to be a little bit more room for negotiation there.

And I would have to say, on the broadcast side, I would also think that’s true when you think about some of the cable properties. That’s a tough one. It’s one thing if you are sitting on a franchise, as Fox does with football or CBS does with the NCAAs. But when you have less premium franchises, I think it’s getting harder and harder.


If you could change one thing about the upfronts, what would it be and why?
This is something I’ve long believed—which it gets back in some ways to what I said to the very first question—which is I find it odd in 2019 that this is an annual event. And the amount of effort and time and money that goes into that versus having versions of that dialogue all the time. It just feels like we’re still operating in the 80s and 90s. I would probably blow up the whole thing and take a different approach that is much more bespoke, that is more tailored to individual, if not companies, [or] at least sectors because I think we’re just in a different point in time in conversation.


Bonin Bough, a former digital executive at Mondelez International, is author of the book Txt Me and host of CNBC's Cleveland Hustles. He is also a member of the Adweek Advisory Board.
Publish date: May 20, 2019 https://dev.adweek.com/tv-video/ges-linda-boff-on-why-upfronts-needs-to-be-uniquely-tailored-to-different-marketers/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT