BOBCM Branded Entertainment Panel and Screening at UAL

- in 2016, EVENTS
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Last week I facilitated a panel and screening at London College of Communications as part of the Boot Week programme of activities we put on for students on the advertising degree programmes at the beginning of every year. It also forms part of the extracurricular activities I am organising to help foster exchange between academics and practitioners now that I have become a full-time lecturer. The idea being to also provide students with interesting and inspiring perspectives from industry experts to complement the lectures and workshops my colleagues and I are developing.

The panel session was kindly moderated by Katie Deighton at The Drum marketing magazine, and there was a lively debate where the following participants provided academics, students and invited guests with a very candid picture of where the advertising industry is now at and heading:

I hope to be sharing highlights of the panel session soon, but as mentioned in my introduction the industry is going through rapid transformation as it responds to changing media landscape and how we are now consuming it. Gravity Road’s Mark Boyd illustrated this by asking how many of the 100+ students in the audience had watched live scheduled TV in the last week. There was only one hand raised, which was bandaged. And she had only been watching live TV because she had been in hospital, hence the bandage.

There is, however, difficulty with defining this brave new world. This is highlighted by all the competing terms being bandied around by practitioners as they try and differentiated how and where they now add value, e.g. Branded Content, Branded Entertainment, Brand Journalism, Brand Publishing, Content Brands, Content Marketing, Content Experience, Native Advertising, etc.

That hasn’t stopped a whole host of specialist industry bodies around the globe trying to stake their claim on the territory, including:

  • Branded Content Marketing Association
  • Content Marketing Association
  • Content Council
  • Content Marketing Forum
  • Content Marketing Institute
  • Native Advertising Institute
  • etc, etc, etc

At the same time, most of the more established industry bodies have content and/or native-focused councils and committees.

The growing list of those selling membership subscriptions joins a longer one of others selling their related awards, consultancy, events, reports, subscriptions, tools and training. There’s even longer list of those actually selling content creation services – hence the quip about how people are no longer only ever 2 metres away from a rat in London, they are now also only ever 20 metres away from a content creator!

The cacophony of the often contradictory models and frameworks presented by all these interested parties has led to a kind of ‘Babelization’ that only serves to add to client confusion.  There’s also no common agreement about how the different terms are defined, and that’s because attempts to date haven’t really nailed it yet. The glacial pace of academic publishing also doesn’t appear agile enough to provide a conceptualisation of the territory either, which would seemingly be a first step towards establishing it as key marketing (communications) discipline that can be both taught and researched more formally. That’s why I and others think there’s a need for a dedicated academic journal.

Part of the problem is that Content is now just what marketing is and does, and as BBDO’s Chief Creative Officer explains that’s why brand-funded content is such a difficult space to define:

It’s a hard category to define, and one that is inherently messy and foggy with no clear horizons because it’s horizontal.

David was president of the Cannes Lions Branded Content & Entertainment Jury in 2015 that failed to award a Grand Prix for a second year in a row. You can read more about the problems David and other jurors have been facing judging an article I put together for the The Drum here.

But if content is  just what marketing is and does now then terms like Branded Content and Content Marketing would seem to be redundant, unless they help explain how they are different from other content-based marketing approaches.

Perhaps a new lexicon is now required, but in the meantime Google’s Hero Help Hub framework provides a useful way of thinking about different content formats based on how, what, why, when, where and why we are consuming them (rather than just analysis of expert opinion). This is the latest evolution of their Hygiene, Hub and Hero framework originally presented in The YouTube Creator Playbook for Brands:


The author, academic and Xoogler Lazar Dzamic discussed the framework in more detail in his article about redefining what content is and how it shapes the future of advertising. I hope to be sharing a presentation given by Lazar at the #ContentExperience in Belgrade where we both spoke last week, along with an interview about advertising ethics I conducted.

I used the Hero, Help and Hub framework above in a white paper last year that tried to map the brand-funded content territory by looking at how marketing was seemingly being shaped from 3 different directions:



This explanation is still work in progress but the panel and screening last week was focused on the Hero circle, which is the space major advertising award shows like Cannes Lions, D&AD and One Show judge as part of their Branded Content and Entertainment categories.

For some this represents where the media landscape will be further reshaped by the collision of the advertising and entertainment industries. These are the inspiring examples that we tend to cover in the BOBCM series, where we chronicle outstanding examples like Real Beauty Sketches from Dove, Epic Splits from Volvo Trucks and #LikeAGirl from P&G’s Always.

An early example of ‘Branded Entertainment was the BMW Films series of eight short films produced for the pre-YouTube web between 2001 and 2002 . They were directed by well known film directors and starred Clive Owen in stories that demonstrated the car’s performance:

BMW Films: The Hire – Beat the Devil

A new series is being produced to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the launch of BMW Films, and you can see a sneak peak here. Whether this new outing will have the same impact as the the original series remains to be seen, as the format has now become a much copied genre that’s harder to stand out in.

The convergence of the advertising and entertainment worlds was the theme of the Madison & Vine book by former Ad Age Editor Scott Donaton back in 2004 that followed on from his regular column on the topic. He argued that the two industries had to merge in order to survive.

But the business model of Branded Entertainment has a long history, and as you can see from the Walt Disney enterprise map from 1957 below the Theatrical Films (Hero content) are right at the centre of an interconnected web of the company’s entertainment assets:


Hopefully, the the above has given you some context and pointers about why brands might use Branded Content and Entertainment to connect with us as part of a Hero, Help and Hub-type content strategy.

We’ll be hosting more keynote sessions from industry experts as part of our new leadership series that was kicked off by Mediacom Beyond Advertising’s UK Managing Partner Tom Curtis on Monday last week. There are also more panel sessions being planned that will explore other areas, such as the Brand Publishing and Content Experience circles in the Venn Diagram above.

If you’d like to attend future events then join the BOBCM LinkedIn Group or follow me on Twitter for updates. In the meantime, I have also curated the following extended playlist of the examples that formed part of screening last week and what I will be presenting later this month at the Nottingham International Microfilm Festival.

Special thanks to the following for their help with compiling the films for the screening:

Also check out Jaguar: Desire with Damien Lewis on Vimeo

About the author

Justin Kirby is a consultant, educator and thought leader with a 20+ year career in industry as a digital strategist, producer and entrepreneur. He chairs and speaks at conferences around the globe, judge industry awards, and advise brands and agencies.