21CF Chats: FOX’s VP of Design, Creative Services Karen Nefsky on how the upfront has changed, what to expect this year, more


The annual FOX Broadcasting Company Programming Presentation and Post-Party in New York City (Monday, May 15) is the shining result of a significant effort from a number of different groups within the Fox Networks Group family. To shed some light on some of the moving parts behind the scenes, we recently spoke with Karen Nefsky, VP of Design and Creative Services for FOX Broadcasting Company.

Karen and her team are responsible for several large events each year. This year, they took on the challenge of Super Bowl LI in Houston. While that was certainly a feat of hard work and creativity, she says “nothing else really compares to the upfront.”

Read about how her responsibilities have changed in recent years, what to expect from this year’s FOX upfront presentation and post-party, and her team’s motto.

What are your responsibilities for FOX’s upfront event this year?

Creative Services Design Group produces multiple aspects of the upfront presentation, party, webcast and post-show materials. Our design team is responsible for establishing the overall look and feel of all the print and electronic collateral, as well as signage, décor and various branding for the event. In addition to design, there is also the production side of all these components. Getting elements produced and delivered, not only to New York but also to all our satellite cities (Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles) where we host smaller upfront viewings, for all our clients based in those areas. The Design Group also oversees the design and implementation of the live webcast stream for guests who are unable to attend, as well as for all Fox Networks Group and 21st Century Fox employees.

A sneak peek at some of the elements that will be featured at the post-party, including staff T-shirts, network-branded pillows,

a step-and-repeat for talent and a dessert station photo op backdrop.

How has all this changed over the years?

Although what we do is similar year to year, the way we do things has changed over time. In the past 10 years, new tools and online platforms have changed the way Creative Services plans and executes our upfront presentation, party, sales materials and how our guests experience them.

What differences should we expect to see this year?

The FOX Upfront is uniquely well known, impressive and memorable on all accounts. Every year, the FOX Upfront continues to evolve. Implementation of new technology has transformed every aspect of our upfront event planning. In Creative Services, we always challenge ourselves to elevate the guest experience. This year’s upfront presentation and party will have interactive immersive components that will engage our audience through sight, sound, touch and taste.

Bringing a brand identity to life seems like an abstract notion. How do you go about doing this for the upfront each year?

It’s all about differentiation: making a brand visible, relevant and unique. FOX brings all of that and more to our guests. The network is distinctive and has always set itself apart from the others. Our goal for each upfront is to use our identity to subconsciously affect our guests’ experiences at every touchpoint.

A sneak peek at the Snapchat filters for the post-party.

Can you give us an idea of the different parties you coordinate with throughout the upfront planning and execution process?

Creative Services works interdepartmentally within the Fox family to bring the upfront to life. FOX, FOX Sports, FX and National Geographic all play an integral role in providing content to visually enhance our environment during the presentation and throughout the party.

How do you and your team deal with the challenges in planning and executing the upfront each year?

Every upfront has its challenges, but it’s also what keeps it interesting each year. You can never plan for the unexpected, but with Creative Services our motto is “Be Prepared for Anything!”

What’s the most rewarding part of the planning process for these big events?

Creative Services has learned that when the stakes are high, the reward is even greater. New pressures and obstacles are inevitable, so when you conquer them and experience the gratification of getting through it all, you can than take a moment, give thanks to all who contributed to a successful event and start planning for next year!