Opinion: Perspective - Why BT and Beattie are claiming content is king

Now that we've all picked our chins off the floor and got used to the fact that TBWA is Beattie-less, the industry's pessimists and Beattie-bashers have quickly filled the silence by wondering whether this whole Beattie McGuinness Bungay thing will ever work (page 20).

The sceptics seem to have got their teeth into two aspects of the start-up's proposition. First: is Trevor really going to put his balls on the line to make an advertising-centric agency work at a time when he's preoccupied being splashed all over the colour supps with a new exhibition of his memorabilia or producing his first West End show?

Second, how far can the new agency go with its idea of mixing traditional advertising solutions more concertedly with other forms of communicating brand messages, such as branded content. No matter that this sort of creative thinking is the current darling of the pitch presentation and agency positioning statement; there remains an awful lot of fashionable talk about it, and bugger-all action.

Of course, these two criticisms are complementary. Yes, Beattie has been doing a lot of stuff that appears to have more to do with content creation than advertising. And, yes, BMB fancies combining branded content with commercial messages to offer broader solutions for clients. There's no doubt that content creation is the new in-thing cutting-edge agency brochures are wearing this year. Yet the current creative agency structure typically fights against exploiting these new opportunities and where branded content is on an agency's agenda, it is often housed in a unit separate from the main creative team.

Perhaps BMB has a head start simply for being leaner and more flexible than its established peers. And then there's Beattie's own celebrity network, which spans a few people who know quite a bit about creating entertainment.

While the reports that BMB is being backed by Chris Evans are off the pace, he is a mate and working together on a future project is a possibility.

And that, really, will surely be the key to successful branded content: finding partners who know how to produce entertaining programming. Because whoever is paying for a show to be made, it must be watchable, entertaining, proper telly (or film). Which is the real challenge for enteraction TV, launching a new TV channel of branded content on Sky this autumn (page 3).

BT is the first advertiser to sign up to Home 2; not a bad start. But although the channel is hoping for blue-chip advertisers to broadcast classy branded content, avoiding the pile-it-high, flog-it-cheap approach of traditional teleshopping channels will be a struggle.

What it does offer, though, is a real training ground for advertisers and agencies in the branded content arena. And chances are, viewing figures will be low enough for any mistakes to go largely unnoticed. So perhaps this will be the catalyst to allow BMB and other agencies that are claiming the content territory as their own to put some credentials to the claims.

You can't have failed to notice that this summer sees the 50th anniversary of commercial television. And ITV is planning an extravaganza of suitable proportions, including paying homage to its biggest commercial supporters (a programming fest will mark the channel's advertising history).

No matter that many of ITV's advertising clients will feel that the broadcaster has spent most of the past five decades screwing the companies that represent its financial lifeblood. There is no doubt that many of those brands owe much of their health and wealth to the power of the 30-second ad.

What a pity, then, that the royal family has thrown a dampener on events by banning celebratory stamps featuring Spitting Image and Benny Hill, both of which were responsible for some of those high-impact brand-building ad breaks. They don't make them like that anymore.

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