The Most Memorable Moments From the 2020 NewFronts

From Amy Schumer on a unicorn float to YouTube's personalized Brandcast

Amy Schumer on a unicorn float in a pool
Amy Schumer appeared in her home pool on a unicorn float to tout her upcoming Hulu series, Love, Beth, and read excerpts from her childhood diary. Hulu
Headshot of Jason Lynch

After a two-month delay and a complete format overhaul, the 2020 Digital Content NewFronts have finally wrapped, capping a frenzied week of virtual presentations, insights panels and Q&As. In case you missed any of the events—and there were dozens of them—Adweek has rounded up the most memorable moments from the week. (And if you missed any of our NewFronts coverage, you can find it here.)

Roku

Roku borrowed ideas from other streaming services, introducing its version of pause ads and Roku Reserve (similar to YouTube Select). The platform tried its hardest to make OneView look sexy during a virtual presentation, with panning b-roll shots of OneView sitting open in a web browser. And Roku’s Alison Levin said she taped her presentation from her backyard shed—she might have the nicest, least-grimy shed I’ve ever seen. Where are all of her tools? —Andrew Blustein

Crackle Plus

Almost every NewFronts presenter took a few moments to proclaim their support for Black Lives Matter amid the global protests over police brutality and social injustice. But Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment chairman and CEO Bill Rouhana put his money where his mouth is as he gave brands an additional incentive to fast-check their upfront negotiations: He said that for the first agency partner to commit to Crackle Plus in this upfront, the company will donate 5% of that commitment back to promote a charity of that agency’s choice. —Jason Lynch

Tubi

The AVOD streamer tapped The Masked Singer judges Ken Jeong and Nicole Scherzinger for its presentation, but some of their jokes worked better than others. At one point, Tubi chief content officer Adam Lewinson held a staged FaceTime call with Scherzinger, former member of the Pussycat Dolls, where Scherzinger joked that Lewinson had been begging for a spot to compete in the reality series and was a secret fan of her former girl group’s music. But the bit felt strained without a live audience, where NewFronts jokes like these are better suited to shine. —Kelsey Sutton

Hulu

It wouldn’t be a Hulu NewFront without lots of talent appearances, but the comedians the streamer tapped to appear onscreen didn’t disappoint this time around. Amy Schumer appeared in her home pool on a unicorn float to tout her upcoming series Love, Beth, and without a trailer to show off, she opted instead to read excerpts from her childhood diary. Martin Short and Steve Martin, who co-star in the upcoming comedy Only Murders in the Building, appeared in a joint video call to riff off each other. “This show is already one of the highlights of my career,” Short said, to which Martin responded, “And I am proud to say it’s a blip on the radar of mine.”—Kelsey Sutton

Snap

Snap highlighted original content on its Discover platform at its NewFronts debut. The social platform, known for disappearing photos and messages, leaned into AR in recent years, and it’s starting to bleed into its original programming. While Snap is adding some star power behind its originals, there’s still a gap between the app’s 229 million daily active users and the relatively smaller audience for its originals. (One of its most popular shows, Will Smith’s Will From Home, has been watched by 35 million users.) —Scott Nover

Condé Nast

The publisher decided to address the diversity issues that employees have accused the company’s video production team and food brand, Bon Appétit, of having, in its pitch to advertisers. Nearly every executive included in the presentation mentioned the issues in some capacity, including the company’s CEO Roger Lynch in an unusual live segment at the beginning of the event. Their comments came just a little over two weeks after Bon Appétit’s editor in chief stepped down (after a brownface photo surfaced and discrimination allegations mounted), and their inclusion in the event proved just how big they perceive the moment to be. —Sara Jerde

Facebook

The growing advertiser boycott of Facebook dominated headlines during NewFronts week, but it wasn’t mentioned during the company’s five-minute video showing how agencies, brands and creators used its tools—mainly Facebook Live and Instagram Live—to keep brands and followers engaged once the pandemic hit. But that wasn’t all that was overlooked during the brief presentation: Not a single show was mentioned, nor was Facebook Watch, and IGTV was only referenced twice. Facebook has much bigger issues to tackle right now, but the programming omission was surprising during a week when so many streaming services highlighted their original content. —David Cohen

Vevo

Katy Perry opened the presentation by saying she feels good about being the most-viewed woman artist on Vevo but joked that in quarantine, she “literally can’t make three nourishing meals a day for myself, and I don’t know how to do dishes.” Other than that, the presentation actually looked much sharper than most of its fellow NewFronts presenters this week. The music video platform was smart enough to use the resources at its disposal to shoot the presentation, instead of just relying on Zoom. —Andrew Blustein

Barstool Sports

Outspoken founder Dave Portnoy played to type early in the presentation, where he was seen lying in a pool float supposedly talking business on a cellphone. But he threw on a short-sleeve shirt to make a more serious pitch to advertisers about what he referred to as “the most powerful and influential website on the internet.” He later explained to advertisers, “Our readers and our fans treat us like we’re a sports team. They root for us. They’re invested in us. That’s why when we get advertisers, they buy the products, because they want to see us succeed, and they want to see you succeed.” —A.J. Katz

The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s Group

The publishers used most of their time discussing why advertisers should be interested in their properties in a live panel discussion (as the daughter of the Journal’s editor in chief made clear multiple times by walking behind her dad as he talked). The Dow Jones companies, though, were the only media organizations to open the conversation up to those watching the livestream. The IAB-sponsored event disabled the ability to ask questions live, so it was an opportunity for those in the “room” to have their voices heard. Among the questions asked was for the company to talk more about its print ad guarantee. —Sara Jerde

Vice Media

The media company’s annual NewFronts presentation began with a sobering focus on the use of blocklists in the industry in the wake of national protests against police brutality and racial injustice. One major entertainment brand that Vice Media does business with recently requested that its ads not run against content with the terms “Black Lives Matter” and “Black people,” Marsha Cooke, svp of content strategy and community at Vice Media, told marketers at the start of the company’s NewFronts—a particularly stomach-churning revelation that highlighted the costs blocklists can have on publishers. —Kelsey Sutton

Diversity Town Hall

Many important points were made during the hopeful diversity town hall, but moderator Monique Nelson really hit the nail on the head when she pointed out that 90% of the market growth is coming from Black, Latino and Asian communities. And because “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and Gen Zers will settle for nothing less than seeing their values reflected, the industry had better be ready—yesterday. —Mary Emily O’Hara

YouTube

The ninth annual Brandcast offered up a first-ever personalized presentation that found small ways to keep serving up fun surprises. There was something delightful about having celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay hold up a card with “Kelsey’s Brandcast” written on it or YouTube execs taking a sip out of a “Kelsey’s Brandcast” coffee mug throughout the presentation. With that said, the personalization also had some misses. A personalized build-your-own pizza kit offered to marketers and agency members arrived to this reporter’s house only after the pizza dough had violently burst from its sealed container onto the surrounding cardboard packaging. —Kelsey Sutton

Digitas

While Digitas initially bowed out of this year’s NewFronts following the pandemic, it changed course and opted to use the opportunity to plug a project it’s been working on with client KitchenAid for a year and a half. During a 15-minute presentation, it revealed the cinematic trailer for A Woman’s Place, an upcoming documentary that follows three female chefs as they try to get their culinary careers off the ground in a male-dominated industry. Considering Digitas launched the first NewFronts event in 2008, it was likely a smart move to remain a part of it despite this year’s changes, and it gave the agency a welcome opportunity to drum up buzz for an interesting client collaboration. —Minda Smiley

TikTok

At its first NewFronts presentation, TikTok, the most disruptive social platform to enter the market in years, kept it simple. Its message to advertisers: “Don’t make ads, make TikToks,” a nod to authenticity on an app full of trends and ingroup chatter. But the app has always left marketers with something to be desired: better targeting and metrics. The presentation wasn’t complete without a vague promise to say, in so many words, “we’re working on it.” —Scott Nover

Top to Top Gaming CMO panel

One of the week’s final panels showed the potential perils of livestreaming from home: an intriguing discussion between Hershey’s CMO Jill Baskin and Activision Blizzard CMO David Messinger was briefly interrupted when a mystery man began knocking on Baskin’s door—and was visible in the background of her livestream. And a glitchy audio connection unfortunately rendered some of Messinger’s comments inaudible. —Andrew Blustein

The big finish

HQ Trivia alum Scott Rogowsky capped a solid week as NewFronts host with a stirring message to all participants and attendees in his final remarks Friday afternoon, reminding them that “you have the power” to take a stand amid the nationwide cries for social justice. “Pay no mind to people who are outraged by what really shouldn’t be controversial,” he said. “My challenge to the brands out there who participated and presented and the entire IAB community is to stand up right now. This is your moment. Let’s not let this moment pass. Yes, there are steps you’re taking and they’re incremental, and you’re trimming the branches of white supremacy, but you really have to attack this at the root.” —Kelsey Sutton


@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV/Media Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.
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