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Just What Is A "NewFront?" And Should Brands Be Interested?

It would have been fun to see cranky interviewer Piers Morgan meeting Mashable Editor Adam Ostrow, or to see if Tom Hanks and a Yahoo! executive have anything in common. (They do.) This was Digital Content NewFronts, a two-week event in New York that wraps next week, and which brings together brands, marketers, distributors, and talent to explore (and sell) digital content and media opportunities. These are much like the TV upfronts, but instead the “networks” included AOL, Google/YouTube, Hulu, Microsoft Advertising, Yahoo! and Digitas.

It was Digitas, the integrated brand agency, that brought those online competitors together for the first time, this year. As MediaPost blogger David Goetzl describes it, each of those properties in its upfront made clear “how they are offering ROI opportunities similar to, or even potentially one better than, TV.” AOL announced that it would offer TV-style guarantees of impressions, by using gross ratings points, and it unveiled a TV-style “programming slate” that looks much like the stuff you see on HBO and Oxygen (e.g., “Fetching” which is scripted by a “Sex and the City” writer, and “Digital Justice,” covering cyber crime the way “The First 48” does).

Yahoo! announced its third slate of original video programming targeted at men, including a talk show hosted by Jeff Goldblum; "Stunt Nation"; a demolition program called "Kaboom"; and a daily show called "The MANual." Among its less macho offerings, "Katie's Take," a web-only weekly show debuting on May 1.

But Can They Guarantee Success?
With numbers like 1,557,832 ad impressions in a month (comScore data for Hulu from February), they do. And Tom Hanks is bypassing network television to bring his producing talents ( “Band of Brothers” and “John Adams”) online at Yahoo! where he will collaborate on “Electric City,” a 90-minute show broken down into digestible short video segments. “We’re looking for the first digital blockbuster,” said Yahoo video head Erin McPherson, as reported in Adweek. “We’re looking for that Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer of the Web."

And in addition to AOL’s GRP promise, Hulu promised in its upfront that advertisers will pay only for pre-roll and in-stream ads that run to 100% percent completion—aping TV. Hulu’s original programming includes “Battleground,” a sitcom about a Senate campaign that premiered in February; “A Day in the Life,” a celebrity documentary series from Morgan Spurlock; and “Up to Speed,” set to premiere this summer, from filmmaker

Goetzl called the NewFronts a “rookie success story.” Whether or not AOL, Yahoo! or Hulu convince marketers to shift their dollars online, time will tell. “But, the first-annual series of events have already been a huge success from a marketing perspective.”

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