With all the discussion around this year's upfronts—how are they different? are they extinct?—we've decided to get direct reactions from the week's target audience: media buyers. We found several buyers from different agencies, with varying job levels, who agreed to check in with us throughout the week and share their honest opinions of the previous day's events. Two of them stopped by the NBC Universal presentation yesterday. (They want to stay anonymous, so our buyers are going by names from their favorite TV shows.)
“Rudy Huxtable” is a 28-year-old broadcast department supervisor at Optimedia International US Inc., a subsidiary of the Publicis Groupe, where she has worked for the past two years. A six-year industry veteran, Huxtable represents a variety of clients, including one multimillion-dollar “big fish.” This is her fifth year at the upfronts.
“We got to 30 Rock at 5:30 yesterday, and it was a little confusing at first because there were no signs of where to go. But then a security guard directed us up to the mezzanine level, which is where the tour started. I was definitely confused at first. It was totally sensory overload, with fun-house decor, tons of TVs, mirrors, and really loud noises.
“As we walked through the space, you walked through NBC’s different platforms for their shows, like Heroes, and their networks, like Sci Fi. It wasn’t all that clear, actually, and there weren’t any NBC reps explaining it, but it was cool and really different for the upfronts. At the end, we got interviewed by Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry—who in person is really pretty and not awkward like she is on TV. The whole thing took about 20 minutes.
“After that, they tented the path over to the rink, and the walk was super interactive. Nancy O’Dell was interviewing everyone; you could get your picture taken in a USA Network photo booth; a set from that new show American Gladiators was there; two Top Chefs were cooking. Oh, and NBC is getting the Super Bowl next year, so a section of the tent was dedicated to that and all the anchors were signing footballs. It got really crowded in that area, so I avoided it. The invitations were really strict—not that many people were invited, it was only high-ups—and that was a good thing because it was already really crowded when we got to the rink around 6.
“Unlike years past, all the talent was just walking around—everyone from The Office, the cast of Heroes, The Real Housewives of New York—which was really cool. I talked to Ramona for a while; she’s so animated and funny. All in all, the event was interesting and different. We didn’t really learn a lot about their new shows, but NBC has already come into our office and given us development presentations, so it was fine.
“We left at 7 and walked two blocks over to Del Frisco's, where MTV was taking us to dinner—a more intimate setting than Thursday’s upfront. I had a filet with foie-gras butter. It was amazing. We were the last ones to leave, around 11.”
“Alex P. Keaton” is a 28-year-old supervisor in the broadcast department at Wieden + Kennedy, where he has worked for two years. He's been in the media-buying industry for nearly five years; his current client is Electronic Arts. This week marks his fourth year at the upfronts.
“NBC Universal pulled out all the stops with an expo-like walk that felt like a line leading into a Universal theme-park ride—only instead of an actual roller coaster at the end, it was a cocktail party with NBC’s stars. While the NBCU theme park got off to a rocky start, with no real direction on where to go and very little actually learned throughout, the party was slightly better than in years past. The typical cast photo sections were inside, but underneath the tent, the very approachable cast of SNL mingled with the crowd. Even Jimmy Fallon was in attendance as NBC announced he’ll take over for Conan in 2009, once Conan fills the shoes of Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.
“With plenty of dinners planned throughout the week, it was a great way to start the week. It’s always the proverbial jog that precedes a marathon week of presentations, lunches, dinners, schmoozing, boozing, and getting your picture taken with the cast of The Office one minute, and Wolf from American Gladiators the next.
“With ABC and CBS canceling their parties, this could be the best post-upfront celeb-infused shmooze-fest of them all, at least until the drink-till-you're-cross-eyed dance party that follows the Fox presentation.”
The Hollywood Reporter talked to media buyers, too, for this report.