An upfront is a self-indulgent lovefest. Major television networks invite advertising, marketing, and industry suits to fancy-pants locations and put on choreographed, infotainment showcases of their upcoming content offerings. Network bigwigs and celebrities do a little song and dance (We have Sunday Night Football this year! Here’s Patrick Dempsey of Grey’s Anatomy to talk to you about the new season! 85% of viewers don’t Tivo through our commercials! Look at these successful ad campaigns from last year! Etc.!), Madison Avenue oooos and ahhhhs and begins to think about the checks they’ll be writing in exchange for TV ad space, aspiring models and actors serve gourmet finger food, and everybody gets drunk.
Kinda awesome. At least that’s what I’m told. I’ve never been to an upfront for a major television network, just an upfront for YouTube, which, actually, was kinda awesome.
At three-story club/concert space Terminal 5, Google hosted Vidoecracy, a “deep-dive, Cliffs Notes, YouTube 101 education” for potential advertisers, mostly pitching them on the idea that the video-sharing site is about more than just videos. It’s a social experience that’s capable of producing stars and events palatable to a number of mainstream demographics.
Anderson Cooper, Esmee Denters, Lisa Nova, Soulja Boy, the Pachelbel’s Canon guitar dude, the Will it Blend? guy and others took the center stage. More online content creators like Threadbanger, Ford Models, and James Kotecki were positioned between build-your-own smores stations and open booze bars. A couple thousand advertisers and new media studio execs mingled and checked out the talent.
If you weren’t there, here’s an overview I shot of the scene:
One surprise. For a site populated by millions of homemade movies, what was missing from its party was cameras. I would’ve thought that a company with founders (aside: I met Chad and he was super nice) who announced a $1.65 billion acquisition by way of what looks like a crappy handheld would’ve been more lenient on the filming policy. Instead, staff and security asked would be shooters to please put their equipment away while official, two or three-person production units toting expensive, professional grade gear captured all the action. I suppose that’s what happens after a $1.65 billion acquisition.
Anyway, there were also some announcements of upcoming YouTube initiatives. Ian Schafer has a rundown. The three that interest me the most are the ones relating to content. In 2008 we’ll see “The YouTube Games” (looks like an episode of MXC), “Living Legends” (The Rolling Stones are first, assuming their omission from this year’s Death List is accurate), and “The YouTube Global Gathering” (like Live Earth except different).
After the main event, the festivities continued at Tenjune. I sat next to Tay Zonday on the bus ride over. He was scheduled to be in Vegas to promote Dr. Pepper the next day, had recently returned to the states after making some TV show appearances in London, and has been doing so much traveling, he couldn’t remember where he was flying to/from three weeks ago. He was tired. The after party was your average Meatpacking District good time.
Was the night the latest blast of the trumpet heralding the internet’s arrival on the entertainment scene? Or the start of new media’s slow pour into the castings of old media standards? Or something else? Who knows. It was fun.