With network upfronts slated to occur in May, buyers andplanners in the pharma space will consider TV spending for the coming programmingseason. Given the volatility in the market, what should the current upfrontmodel be for pharma?

Andy Donchin

Director, national broadcast


The upfront picture is clouded by the writers’ strike.Although we hope it ends soon, it could positively affect the upfront process.Economic pressures have resulted in fewer pilots, but new programs could beintroduced more evenly throughout the year. Presentations could become morefocused with more attention to digital extensions and client needs. The negotiationprocess will continue, but the timing may be more favorable to advertisers. Butthe general erosion of ratings points—strike or not—has made every advertiser,including pharma, think of “where else.” That’s easier said than done, becauseTV is still unparalleled in reach potential. Most pharma spending is against anolder audience. Network television is still a big driver, but there’s also someattractive syndication and targeted cable. We’re trying to maintain what worksand tweak what could be better.


Joan Mikardos

Media director


The upfront model for pharma really depends on theindividual situation of each pharma company. There are significant pros toparticipate in the TV upfront, but only if it makes business sense to do so. Ifyour company needs complete flexibility, you just need to be aware of thetrade-offs that may need to be made with the buy (e.g., higher cost, a lessthan ideal programming mix, etc.). Pharmaceutical advertisers can use othermedia, like online, to efficiently “buy back” GRPs lost to scatter premiums.Online advertising should play a greater role than it currently does forpharma. It’s highly targetable, efficient, accountable and flexible. At the endof the day, pharmaceutical marketers need to follow a process that makes sensefor their company, not what makes sense for the networks.


Liz O’Neill

VP, media director 

EvoLogue (CommonHealth Consumer Group)

The overall channel model for pharma should be based onintersecting patients in channels that they already use and understand withcompelling, educational content. The timing of the strike could be anopportunity for branded entertainment and other content distribution channelsthat can provide a richer experience for the patient. I would be sure to participatein the upfronts, as TV is still an important channel, and sitting out did notprove a successful strategy in 2007/2008. Pharma should ensure access to thelimited new scripted programming that will be available due to the writers’strike. We will likely see some tough negotiations again. A year from now, morewill be watching online and possibly even on their Google phone. Asadvertisers, we need to make our content compelling and relevant to the viewingexperience of our targets.


Karen Coleman

SVP, director

Spark Communications

Pharma clients must weigh the risks and rewards. Pricing inthe short-term marketplace has been significantly higher than in years past.While many marketers would be advised to buy as much as they can in theupfront, the changing regulations could leave them on the hook for unusedinventory. For marketers that can switch out a product for another, moving themajority in the long-term upfront would be advisable.  For those brands that have more uncertainty, placing lessupfront is the route to take. There’s less efficiency, but that is off-set bythe flexibility this option provides. Marketers need to place a value on themedia “real-estate” they want to own. If there are category exclusivity situations, those will likely not beavailable in the short-term marketplace.