Paul Grainge kindly participated in JOBCM academic and industry collaboration co-faciliated by BOBCM’s curator Justin Kirby. He is Professor of Film and Television Studies at the University of Nottingham, where he is also a member of the Institute for Screen Industries Research. He is the author of several books which explore promotional screen culture and the blurring boundaries of ‘promotion’ and ‘content.’ These include Promotional Screen Industries (2015), Ephemeral Media: Transitory Screen Culture from Television to YouTube (2011) and Brand Hollywood: Selling Entertainment in a Global Media Age (2008). He is on the editorial board of Cinema Journal and Screen.
Why do you think a Journal of Branded Content Marketing is relevant?
As part of the fieldwork for our recent book Promotional Screen Industries, Catherine Johnson and I interviewed a range of practitioners that compete and collaborate in the fluid, fast-moving world of promotional screen work. Across advertising and media agencies, television promotion specialists, movie trailer houses, and digital design companies, the word ‘branded content’ recurred. This term indicated a market and creative territory up for grabs, and was often associated with metaphors of the ‘Wild West.’ It is this sense of unruliness and transition – of industrial and textual practices not fully settled – that makes branded content such an interesting concept to explore. A Journal of Branded Content Marketing can help think through the definitional confusion, territory disputes and jurisdictional debates that have come to surround the term within contemporary industry practice, but it can also provide a broader cultural and historical perspective on the blurring boundaries of ‘promotion’ and ‘content’ that occur in periods of media transition.
What are you expecting to get out of it?
I am expecting the journal to offer a space for understanding the practice, strategies and metrics of branded content marketing, but also as an opportunity to connect this discussion to debates about the nature of continuity and change in the contemporary media and marketing environment.
Why is it important in this area to have more exchange and collaboration between academics and practitioners?
From my own fieldwork experience, it has always struck me that questions I have as an academic attempting to understand a period of transition for the media industries are ones that are also being asked by practitioners whose job it is to sell expertise and thought leadership in the wake of media change. Each visit or interview with a practitioner has been an intellectually stimulating experience – a chance to gain insight into the ways in which different people, professions and organizations are trying, like academics, to make sense of the instability of the present moment. I think both academics and practitioners are concerned with a level of critical theorizing, and this can be mutually informing.
Why is a conceptualisation of BCM necessary?
There is still a certain definitional laxity to branded content (used to describe anything from event sponsorship and product placement to advergaming and mobisodes). Greater conceptualisation would help move the term beyond the ‘catch-all’ concept it might otherwise threaten to become.
How do you think academics can help practitioners in general, and what areas do you think they could specifically help them with?
Academics in film, television and media studies might help practitioners in various areas – from considering the nature of audience ‘engagement’ in a world where boundaries between promotion and content have become more fluid, to policy contexts, to the ecology of particular media forms (such as online video) that have become especially associated with the practice.
What are the challenges you face or lessons you have learned when working with practitioners on research projects?
The time lag in getting academic research published is always a shock to practitioners I have worked with, but one challenge is making sure we share a common understanding of what ‘research’ is and the kinds of question this can involve.