Media: Double Standards - Just how effective is ad-funded programming?

Advertiser-funded shows are highly regulated and fraught with risk but, when done well, are powerful brand-building tools, two experts in the field reveal.

DAVID CHARLESWORTH - HEAD OF SPONSORSHIP, CHANNEL 4

- Is there a lack of creativity in advertiser-funded programming?

Some ideas address the brand message at the expense of content and it's obvious whenthey have come directly from a commercial source. Calling it "brand-enabled content communication" won't lower the standards against which viewers and web users will judge the quality.

- How can creative standards be improved?

Present a broadcaster with an idea that suits its brand, plays to its ambitions and shows an understanding of its schedule and the audience. Employing the best production talent you can afford will give the best results.

- Are television viewers responding to AFP initiatives?

Viewers respond if they engage with a programme, whether it is funded or not, and we apply the same editorial standards to an AFP as we would a traditional commission. It is rare for viewers to separate the AFP from a traditional sponsorship message because they are often the same on screen.

- Can you give an example of a recent AFP initiative that impressed you?

The Vodafone TBA music concert shows are well targeted for both parties in terms of content and schedule while Endemol, the producer, has an excellent working relationship with our editorial and commercial teams, the client and the talent.

- What advice can you give brands that are considering embarking on AFP?

Clarify your objectives up front and see if they are realistic with an expert practitioner. Ask them to present as many case histories as possible. Identify your idea - broadcast partner(s), take time to meet it and understand the way it works. Is TV the only route? Broadcasters' web portals can sometimes deliver more unique users, more interactivity and a greater response over time than a late-night, one-off TV slot.

- Is AFP cost-effective for advertisers?

Programme-making is a risky business. But fortune favours those who take a collaborative, flexible approach and defer to those who can see through the eyes of their audience. It's often most effective in support of wider activity rather than as a standalone exercise.

- How much control does an advertiser have over the content of AFP?

The client is a key stakeholder, so of course it will have an input. It may help supply talent, locations, research and other knowledge. But the programme makers must be left to use their expertise, and broadcasters are required to retain editorial and scheduling control on all output.

- What types of brands are best suited to AFP?

Any brand can fund good programming if the client and agent are prepared to defer to experts, accept the risks and allow for flexibility in the schedule.

- What specialist skills do broadcasters and agencies need to produce AFP?

Agencies need to understand the broadcasters' business models and scheduling policy and must meet the editorial teams. They also need to get to know the TV production community so they understand who is best placed to make different sorts of content. Broadcasters need to manage expectations internally and externally. There must be compromise and flexibility all round.

- What TV shows do you enjoy?

Big Brother,The X Factor (for professional reasons, of course), Ricky Gervais' shows and Channel 4 News. - What are your pastimes?

Family, music, cars and cricket.

MARK BOYD - DIRECTOR OF CONTENT, BARTLE BOGLE HEGARTY

- Is there a lack of creativity in advertiser-funded programming?

It's difficult to spot any real trends because everyone - creative, media, content specialists, PR, activation, promotions, mobile, production companies, broadcasters, specialists and clients - is having a go. Few are doing it efficiently or in ways that help build brands.

- How can creative standards be improved?

There has been a real step change in the past year and broadcasters and commissioners are a lot more pragmatic about getting stuff off the ground. As an industry we are all looking for standout and value. People are being bolder in seeing what channels such as AFP can achieve.

- Are television viewers responding to AFP initiatives?

Great 30-second spots work brilliantly if they have big ideas and are part of an integrated campaign. Similarly, AFP on its own is rarely the answer. These shows need ideas and integration, too. They aren't tactical, they are highly regulated and are fraught with risk. But done well they can be powerful brand-building tools.

- Can you give an example of a recent AFP initiative that impressed you?

Red Bull is consistently great and Audi is already reaping the benefits of the channel. There are plenty of weaker examples, but they are quickly forgotten.

- What advice can you give brands that are considering embarking on AFP?

You can't move smoothly from a commoditised market like advertising to a maturing opportunity like AFP, so there is lots to learn in terms of message integration, business models, roles and responsibilities.

- Is AFP cost-effective for advertisers?

It depends on the budget. Our budgets range from £2,000 a show to £300,000 per half-hour episode. The big difference is the amount of programmes. We have produced 400 separate production elements on the Audi channel.

- How much control does an advertiser have over the content of AFP?

The greatest impediment is the lack of regulatory consistency between domestically produced and imported programming. US producers, for example, can get away with a lot on UK screens.

- What types of brands are best suited to AFP?

Consumers are far savvier than we give them credit for. They are suspicious of the influence sponsors have and don't distinguish between AFP and sponsorship.

- What specialist skills do broadcasters and agencies need to produce AFP?

Ideas are getting bolder - they are moving away from the simple coverage of events to bigger and more engaging propositions. We are working on some big projects in which the show is one expression of the big idea. Internet protocol TV, for example, will increasingly allow advertisers to go directly to consumers.

- What TV shows do you enjoy?

No comment.

- What are your pastimes?

No comment.

Become a member of Campaign from just £46 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).