MIAMI – Maybe it’s fitting that a panel about the promise of advanced television advertising takes place in the state that brought us the Ringling Brothers. While data is fueling more qualitative audience targeting decisions, media agencies and their clients can be forgiven if they often feel like perpetual jugglers.

What becomes clear from the mix of agency, marketer and media company panelists at the recent Retreat 2016 is that technology really hasn’t made the budget allocation process any easier, and that the Upfront period of forward spending commitments not only endures but is spreading to digital as well.

Asked for his thoughts on the move from agency to client by moderator Matt Spiegel of MediaLink, MasterCard’s Ben Jankowski—who spent 28 years in the agency world—says “It’s more different than I thought it would be.”

What stands out most is the amount of time that Jankowski, who is SVP of Media, has to spend thinking about AdTech. “I spend probably three times more time than I thought I would on things like ad technology,” says Jankowski. “It’s a colossal amount of time.”

Nonetheless, putting aside the quantitative side of media optimization, Jankowski believes “the cool part of what we’re doing” is applying data and insights around more qualitative factors. This includes “how we can use data to become better story tellers,” Jankowski says.

Jason Baadsgaard, Chief Revenue Officer for video marketing technology company Eyeview, says his clients took Eyeview into addressable TV. “What I do know is the space we created is very powerful, but it’s also very confusing for the buyers out there,” Baadsgaard says. “I think we overemphasize the technology too much, make it too tech driven and the marketing gets lost. Buyers are just very confused.”

In response to a question from Spiegel about budget allocation, Dan Bruinsma, SVP, Director at GroupConnect, says it’s a combination of top-down and bottom-up activity. It begins with setting a clear vision, according to Bruinsma.

“If we’re plotting the future of what we want to accomplish in video, then we compartmentalize it in such a way that it allows us to be very forthright when we go into the market,” says Bruinsma.

On the bottom-up side, while addressable TV “may be important,” Bruinsma says he can’t just indiscriminately decide “go ahead and put $5 million in there. We need to do the work to understand all of the economics associated with the size of the segment and communication goals we want to hit.”

As in many things in life, timing is everything. “Typically we’re still doing a lot of planning and a lot of investment in and around an Upfront, whether it’s a broadcast year or calendar year,” Bruinsma adds.

His comments provide a segue for Spiegel to inquire about the importance of Upfront deals and how marketers should decide how much budget to commitment ahead and how much to hold back.

“It’s really a balancing act. We’re constantly mixing with a lot of different moving parts on that,” says Andrew Deming, SVP of Marketing at Bank of America. “Some years I feel like we actually put a greater importance on the upfront process. Then there are other years where we’re putting less importance on it. Just depends on where we are.”

Twitter is new to the forward spending commitment game, according to Ryan Moore, the platform’s Global Agency Development Head.

“This is the first year where some agencies are actively committing upfront TV dollars to our video products,” Moore says. “That’s an interesting experience where we’ll do year-long contracts based on fixed prices. That was not the twitter world a year ago.”

Deming cites Turner Broadcasting’s audience guarantee deals as a positive sign in the trend away from targeting on age and sex demographics. “These types of insights make me a lot warmer to the idea of laying a higher percentage of the dollars down upfront, because of the fact these tools give you a lot more opportunity to optimize against your audience segments,” Deming says.

“Even if you don’t have that fully designed at the time you lay the money down, if you’re working with a Turner and are able to say we have this shift” in audience segments during a campaign, “we can actually shift the inventory around to align to that. It lowers the risk there,” Deming adds.

This interview was conducted at Beet Retreat 2016: The Transformation of Television Advertising, an executive retreat presented by Videology with AT&T AdWorks and the 605. Please find more videos from the event here.