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5 Soft Skills to Use for a Successful Upfront Season and Beyond

by Pam Zucker, April 08, 2022
5 Soft Skills to Use for a Successful Upfront Season and Beyond

This article was originally published on AdWeek.

It’s time to throw the old rules out of the window and curate a new set of rules for a new era of media. The old checklist to be a great video buyer was pretty simple, boiling down into three criteria:

  1. Negotiate like an adversary to get what you think is the best deal.
  2. Base success on your year-over-year demo CPM cost adjustments (daypart by daypart or its narrow equivalent).
  3. Re-weight and recalibrate media numbers to create favorable, if not less truthful, narratives of success for clients.

This will not bring you success in 2022/2023. Why the need to pivot to new skills and new benchmarks for success? Because in the media marketplace the earth is not rotating around the sun at its normal pace of completing one rotation every 24 hours at the speed of 1,000 miles per hour. With all the new opportunities, new players, and new pitfalls to watch out for, media buyers and sellers can feel like the rotation happens two times a day at double the speed. So, hold on tight and be prepared for what is right in front of you.

This year—and into the future—soft skills will be more important than the hard negotiation skills that were valued in the past. Specifically, buying success this upfront season will revolve around the mastery of five soft skills.


Mastering soft skills require a mindshift change. That can be hard when the upfront has relied on consistency and a Pavlovian response to a process built upon recurring stimuli (pre-upfront meetings, the upfront shows, the dinner dance post-upfront meetings, registering money, the naturally over-hyped first offer, the ask for “added value” and so on). So, here are some tactics for changing a buyer’s mindset, beginning with the mastery of curiosity.

Curiosity is a free gift we all process that is too often underutilized. With all the changes happening in the media ecosystem, everyone needs to be more curious. It is impossible to know everything today. You have to go out and seek information from new players and old standbys.

Everyone has new offerings that they promise will deliver your client success. Go and explore what the new offerings are. Ask tough questions. Don’t be ashamed to not know the answers—no one knows all the answers today (especially the people who claim to know all the answers). Come back to your clients with a list of opportunities and a strong POV.


Having a strong POV on new opportunities leads directly into being fearless. As the earth spins at double time for the media industry, we can’t fall into the “insanity trap” of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Soft skills will be more important than the hard negotiation skills that were valued in the past.

The media landscape is not the same as it was a year ago. Advertising-based video on demand (AVOD) is making ground against subscription video on demand (SVOD), linear ratings continue to erode, programs are distributed on multiple platforms and different platforms have different levels of transparency.

All these new realities need to be accounted for in your plans (whether activated or discounted). Once you have researched the opportunities that lay before you and your client, be fearless in your recommendation and have a strong POV that is well-researched and grounded in sound arguments. Stand your ground. The idea of “test and learn” is outdated. The world is spinning too fast. Make some bets and play it out. You will be rewarded for your fearlessness.

Data savviness

After fearlessness comes data savviness. Today all buyers must be data savvy—or at least data competent—and you may rely on data specialists within your team to be the real experts. With the constant growing concerns of personally identifiable information (PII) and the need for clean rooms, a brand needs to think like a publisher. It’s critical to craft a value exchange with customers that creates privacy compliant data signals for the purpose of media and content optimization, as well as measurement. 

Media buyers also need to understand the complementary value of deterministic and probabilistic data sets. Together, they create the best way to understand consumers. There are too many false beliefs out there about the value or differences among these types of data sets. Know your options and drive toward a future where the paradigm shifts to consumers owning their data.

Tech awareness

Being data savvy quickly turns into the need to be tech aware. This is because the data signals then need to be merged with technology that honors the value exchange with the customer. But they must also allow the brand to make larger sweeping predictions about the media ecosystem in a way that helps them efficiently drive new customers and brand growth. Technology needs to be able to unify your data and audiences and optimize for the best outcomes across screens. This is the new playbook for success.


And the final soft skill that is paramount to success today is being partnership-focused. Today, success is a team sport and the players on the team come from many different companies. To create the best supply chain for your client you must engage with many partners: media owners, data suppliers, tech companies, viewability exports, and many more.

You must not be covert about your goals, but rather open up and let others in. Only together, with a partnership mindset can you put your curiosity, fearlessness, data savvy, and tech-aware knowledge to work for your clients.

It can be a scary marketplace out there for the person who demands control and perfection. Today’s media reality requires new soft leadership skills for success. I hope people will put bad habits on the back burner and lean into the new marketplace reality that demands new skills to win.

This article was originally published on AdWeek.


About Amobee

Founded in 2005, Amobee is an advertising platform that understands how people consume content. Our goal is to optimize outcomes for advertisers and media companies, while providing a better consumer experience. Through our platform, we help customers further their audience development, optimize their cross channel performance across all TV, connected TV, and digital media, and drive new customer growth through detailed analytics and reporting. Amobee is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tremor International, a collection of brands built to unite creativity, data and technology across the open internet.

If you’re curious to learn more, watch the on-demand demo or take a deep dive into our Research & Insights section where you can find recent webinars on-demand, media plan insights & activation templates, and more data-driven content. If you’re ready to take the next step into a sustainable, consumer-first advertising future, contact us today.

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