The Most Memorable Moments From 2019’s NewFronts Week

From a big snake to even bigger stars

Studio71's presentation included a massive python, which elicited audible gasps and nervous laughter among attendees. Stephanie Berenson/Studio71
Headshot of Jason Lynch

The 2019 Digital Content NewFronts are finally winding down, capping a dizzying week of events and cocktail parties today with the IAB’s day-long NewFronts insight symposium. In case you missed any of the events, or your NewFronts experience ended up morphing into one long digital-themed blur, Adweek has rounded up the most memorable moments from each NewFronts event. (And if you missed any of our NewFronts coverage, you can find it here.)

MediaLink’s kickoff breakfast: The most astonishing element of the breakfast was not the content—a discussion of advertising and media trends with execs from Google/YouTube, MediaLink, JPMorgan Chase and UM Worldwide—but the fact that MediaLink was able to pack a room at Google’s 10th Avenue offices at the early hour of 7:30 a.m. —Diana Pearl

The New York Times: In an early-morning presentation that kicked off NewFronts, Times execs (including its own publisher) tried to impress upon the audience the importance of news. But buyers reacted most strongly to the last part of the presentation: solving the next day’s crossword puzzle. A lot of attendees left during this portion because it moved too slow, perhaps proving the point that not all things done in print deserve to be an IRL experience with others. —Sara Jerde

BBC News: At BBC News’ third annual NewFront, BBC Global News CEO Jim Egan talked about TV news in 2019 and why advertisers need to be involved. “I don’t think the right response to the understandable concerns that advertisers, agencies and brands have about news is to simply say, ‘Well we aren’t going to advertise on news at all,’ because that will make what we’re seeing in the industry worse, rather than better,” he said. Egan and his presenting colleagues stood on a round platform surrounded by the audience and made sure to speak to different parts of the room throughout—an effective dynamic for attendees. —A.J. Katz

Viacom Digital Studios: While Viacom kept its second NewFronts event focused on a young demo—with appearances by YouTube stars Annie LeBlanc and Jayden Bartels and excited announcements like “Nala Cat is going to be joining us for cocktails!”—the audience seemed more engaged with the parts that targeted a slightly older demo. That included an appearance from comedian David Spade to tout his upcoming 11:30 late-night Comedy Central show (“I couldn’t be more fake-thrilled to announce that we’re also developing a new digital original series,” were among his many lines that elicited laughs) and the news that Pluto TV—the free, ad supported streaming service Viacom bought in March—will soon launch a channel exclusively airing episodes of The Hills, ahead of this summer’s revival.

Twitter: While Twitter is often touted as a platform for journalists, Univision journalist Jorge Ramos told attendees it has “literally saved” him from jail. While speaking on stage at Terminal 5, he recalled a moment from last February while he was in Caracas, Venezuela, to interview Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Maduro had president abruptly stopped the conversation early and asked for Ramos, his team and their equipment to be detained. However, right before he was taken into custody, Ramos said he contacted his boss in Miami, who began posting a tweetstorm about the situation.  “Everybody in the world knew that we had been detained,” Ramos said. “And let me tell you something: Before we were about to be put on a bus and possibly to jail, I remember telling the government agents and police: Have you checked your Twitter accounts?’… Some of them started checking their cell phones and their face changed completely, and a few minutes later, we were released.” Marty Swant

Studio71: The media company took the stage at AXA Equitable Center on Tuesday afternoon for a two-hour talk dotted with influencers boasting millions of followers. One of these characters, Mike Holston, brought a little something extra to the presentation: a massive, muscular reticulated python that looped around his face, resulting in audible gasps and nervous laughter among the assembled buyers. It’s fitting for the Instagrammer, a former zookeeper who now goes by @therealtarzann and boasts 5.3 million followers watching his international adventures with everything from dogs to chameleons to, yes, even pythons. —Shoshana Wodinsky

Condé Nast: The publisher touted the talent and slew of upcoming video programming (175 new pilots this year). But what made everyone sit a little straighter? When Vogue editor in chief and Condé artistic director Anna Wintour walked on stage to promote her new show, Go Ask Anna. At that, the room illuminated from the cell phones trying to capture her in all her glory. Wintour was kept in the audience last year when the publisher rented out a penthouse for the presentation. —S.J.

Verizon Media: The most head-turning moment of Verizon Media’s presentation was the introduction of Hypezilla, a purple motion-capture gorilla who livestreamed into the venue from the company’s Ryot 5G studio in Los Angeles. The cartoonish ape is set to helm a new “shoppable” series on the Yahoo Play app in which viewers will be able to use augmented reality to virtually try out featured products. Like the rest of Verizon’s pitch, Hypezilla’s spiel focused heavily on the 5G technology that allowed the actor to inhabit the animated character in real time. —Patrick Kulp

Hulu: Hulu took a shock-and-awe approach to its NewFront, dazzling attendees with a stellar lineup of A-listers. That included George Clooney (who noted he had last appeared at an upfront 25 years ago, when NBC picked up ER to series), Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling (who joked about her upcoming Four Weddings and a Funeral reboot, “I can’t wait to fill it with commercials for laundry detergent”), Chrissy Teigen, Margot Robbie and Kate McKinnon—that is unlikely to be matched by any other company, even during upfront week. And while the event lasted longer than most this week, it was worth it just to hear McKinnon’s self-described “weird blood bit” related to her upcoming role as Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes: “If you need the blood for an upfront virgin for some kind of upfronts sacrifice … I don’t know what the hell goes on here!”

Vudu: After watching a presentation including a shoppable ad for Twizzlers (which allows customers to add the candy to their Walmart carts while watching a TV show or movie), guests at Vudu’s Newfront filtered out to a lunch spread that included bags of Twizzlers—and boxes of Febreze-scented trash bags from Glad. It’s hard to imagine it’s the kind of swag anyone bragged about on Instagram, but the next time I take out of the garbage, I’ll be happy I have those Febreze-scented bags. —Lisa Lacy

Ellen Digital Network: Executives at the NewFront made sure to highlight the star power it can attract to programming modeled after Ellen DeGeneres’ brand. Execs brought model Ashley Graham on stage, but those in attendance gasped when they thought they’d hear from Ayesha Curry and Kristen Bell. Those in the audience got a sneak peek at what shows from those celebrities look like, but none of those stars actually appeared at the event. —S.J.

Meredith: Execs at Meredith were quick to tout their programming, designed to target women. And those who came to the presentation were eager to get started, after munching on breakfast goodies and hitting up the mimosa bar. Meredith seems to be investing even more in its major platforms, like Facebook and Instagram. This year alone, Meredith will have 20 new IGTV series. —S.J.

Target: Following a quick announcement about Target’s rebranding of its Target Media Network as Roundel, attendees snacked on Momofuku and Calexico burritos before listening to a talk from NPR Hidden Brain podcast host Shankar Vedantam, who showed a video of Sea World’s Shamu splashed on the walls of Metropolitan West. —D.P.

Digitas: If the Digitas NewFront event were a running race, it would be perfectly paced. There were no huge “aha” moments, but rather some incredibly informative insight into how media, agencies and brands are (and should be) approaching trust in an age of derision and misinformation. However, it’s hard not to be awed by the inimitable Malcolm Gladwell, who was surprisingly chipper about podcasting—and the crowd was delighted by his energy. —Doug Zanger

YouTube: If you attended YouTube’s NewFront, you might be forgiven for forgetting that YouTube has spent the past year fixing problems the streaming platform has with everything from misinformation to hate speech. Brand safety was mentioned at the company’s annual BrandCast event, but it was tucked in neatly and briefly as a carefully worded talking point as the opening act ahead of megastars like Dua Lipa, Daddy Yankee and Grace Vanderwaal. But it seemed to be overshadowed by the bags of cookies that at one point parachuted down from the ceiling, or the dozens of screaming fans that were heralded through the audience by YouTuber-turned-late-night-host Lilly Singh to showcase the types of young and engaged viewers that are reachable on the platform. —M.S.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.
Publish date: May 3, 2019 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT