Media: Double Standards - There's more to AFP than meets the viewer's eye

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 16 October 2009 12:00AM

To the viewer, it's an 'irrelevance', but there is room for more - Simon Wells and Chantal Rutherford Browne discuss the merits of advertiser-funded programming.

SIMON WELLS - EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, DRUM PHD

- To what degree can advertiser-funded programming and branded content help TV's funding crisis?

On its own, it can't, but it does have a role to play in the development of a new set of solutions. The whole range of complex structural issues that surround the funding crisis are far more deeply rooted than can simply be solved by relaxing the regulations on product placement and loosening AFP regulations. The economic model of media, the creation and exploitation of entertainment content and how advertisers use and associate with it to communicate with consumers is changing. Agencies, such as Drum PHD, content producers, broadcasters, content distributors and talent agents will have to combine their skills to develop new creative and commercial models and construct a new economic model in media.

- How does AFP get off the ground? Do you approach producers and broadcasters or are they proactively looking for funding?

Our own experience is that the most successful AFP projects are strategically led by the agency and its client. The thinking behind a campaign that uses a creative content-led solution has to be robust, integrated and exploited fully by the advertiser so that it delivers an effective marketing campaign. That's not to say that you can't do it the other way - where the producer/broadcaster approaches the advertiser for finance/deficit funding to get a production made - but this route relies much more on luck, timing and often a fair degree of post-rationalisation.

- Is there too much AFP on our screens now?

No. There's room for more - as long as it remembers what it is first and foremost ... good old-fashioned, quality entertainment. To do this, we need a new type of creative person too ... one who understands both disciplines and can work seamlessly across them.

- What are the rules to follow to make AFP a success?

Flexibility and avoiding micro-management of every detail. Keep looking at the big picture, which is to create content that attracts and involves an audience. Once you have that audience, you can talk to them and involve them in your advertising message in a variety of ways. And rights - ensure that you maintain a suitable position on "all" rights. Always with an eye on how you want to exploit the content and intellectual property.

- How excited are you by the proposed relaxation in product placement guidelines?

A little - a change to the broadcast regulations in the UK is long overdue. However, it is not the panacea to the problems faced by the production and broadcast entertainment industries that some suggest. And, anyway, it's just an alignment of broadcast with what we have been doing in the digital world for a while now.

- What's been your favourite project in the past year?

I have enjoyed them all for different reasons - especially the digital content work that we have been doing. But, if pushed, I would say The Krypton Factor for Sage as it was a true groundbreaker for the UK mainstream broadcast arena.

- What TV shows do you like to watch and which show would you most like to get a brand involved with?

Mad Men - it harks back to a previous age when our industry was going through enormous change and yet on the cusp of a new golden age. Just like we are now. Which show - EastEnders, or anything with the BBC. Now that would be something.

CHANTAL RUTHERFORD - BROWNE HEAD OF BRANDED CONTENT, MEDIAEDGE:CIA

- To what degree can advertiser-funded programming and branded content help TV's funding crisis?

AFP can help maintain a brand relationship with a mass audience that is increasingly "spot resistant". Branded content won't solve all the funding issues, but it can keep hold of the brands that are planning to migrate. In some cases, it can bring in extra funds that sit outside regular spot budgets.

- How does AFP get off the ground? Do you approach producers and broadcasters or are they proactively looking for funding?

It works every which way. Having discussed content opportunities with Nintendo and the team at MEC, I approached Five to say we might be interested in funding a series that could align itself to the client's brain training games. Five found a format they liked and put the producer and I together. Later this year, MEC identified that branded content would be good for Morrisons too. The Farm Camp series among others was pitched to us by CITV; I advised Morrisons on which creative concepts were suitable and brokered the deal. It helps me massively having a programme-making and channel background.

- Is there too much AFP on our screens now?

No. To the viewer, the funding model is an irrelevance. It still has to be watchable or no-one succeeds. Bring it on.

- What are the rules to follow to make AFP a success?

Brands should employ a professional. In turn, the specialists should fully understand the marketing imperatives, know the Ofcom rules backwards, have great channel relationships, be able to attract the finest programme-makers and recognise a great show when they see it.

- How excited are you by the proposed relaxation in product placement guidelines?

This will make a difference - but probably not massive. What will be interesting is how the spoils get divided.

- What's been your favourite project in the past year?

I've enjoyed Britain's Best Brain. Big-budget, primetime telly is really exciting; importantly, it also allowed us to run a sampling exercise for Nintendo through the TV audition process, attracting 60,000 people. Farm Camp has proved to be very special. I love the education and emotion; it's a perfect adjunct to Morrisons' "let's grow" schools' voucher scheme.

- What TV shows do you like to watch and which show would you most like to get a brand involved with?

I am loving The Sopranos and Entourage (late adopter). BBC One's Outnumbered is fab, the kids and I love Discovery's Deadliest Catch, I weep for the loss of West Wing and I'd love to fund The X Factor.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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