J&J and the Upfront

Lots of “up with technology” sorts are making much of J&J’s decision to pass on the current upfront market. In other words, J&J won’t bid now on ad space for shows in the Fall season.

The orthodox spin: This is another example of how digital technologies are f***-ing things up for ossified sorts in traditional ad markets. Specifically, people no longer feel so concerned that they will be “locked out” of consumer perception if they are unable to buy scarce space on television because there are so many alternative mechanisms — downloads, streaming, etc. etc. — for getting to the same audience.

The  unorthodox spin: Maybe, but the upfront market’s demise has been predicted for years, and yet it’s still a $9-billion market. Granted, it’s not growing particularly quickly, but the possible absence of J&J — this doesn’t mean it won’t buy ads this fall; it just doesn’t want to buy them all now — and its $500m won’t hugely change things.

What’s more, the historical correlation between the upfront and actual spending has been spotty, at best, as the following figure shows: