Media: A moment with Marquis

Branded TV is the new black. Talk of it everywhere and, as usual, I find myself less-than-convinced by the over-the-top reception for anything new-fangled. The protagonists say the ad break is dead: the future is advertiser-funded programming.

As has been pointed out before, one of the things that makes spot advertising effective is its flagrant cheek. Watch me, it says with all the subtlety of the pub comedian, I'm a commercial.

Branded TV is not so brazen. It says: watch me because I'm a sort of advertisement dressed up to look like a programme. You won't notice the ad bit because you'll be so distracted by the brilliance of the programme.

Isn't this a fudge of almost Blairite proportions? If you don't notice the ad bit, how effective can it be? If you do notice, how enjoyable will the programme be?

Haven't I heard of advertorials, you say? Well, yes, and I'm not a fan.

Magazines are wonderful because like programmes with ad breaks, they are full of editorial pages and very obvious advertising pages. When asked if they'd prefer magazines without the ads, readers always say no. But advertorials are a bit of a halfway house, an advertising hermaphrodite.

So why, when there are whole channels dedicated to flogging unappealing stuff and infomercials are everywhere, should there be any objection to branded TV? Because even those things announce their commercial intentions without equivocation, whereas branded TV is advertising in disguise, salesmanship lurking under a hoody.

So, how then will Home2, the new channel that makes branded TV available to advertisers, fare? I predict tiny ratings and audiences composed entirely of the weird and the dispossessed. I also predict programmes of dubious quality and/or ineffective commercial punch.

BT is putting a tentative toe in the water. Perhaps it is more likely to make branded TV work than most, though goodness knows what it will find to fill the two hours per day that it is reported to have booked.

Branded TV is bound, long-term, to be viable in some shape or form, but for now at least I suspect it is one of those "don't hold your breath" developments. For most advertisers in most categories it will have no practical use. The ad break is not dead. Nor is live viewing to mainstream networks whatever may be going on in Sky homes. And branded TV, however well its pioneers are able to make it work, is not the future of TV advertising.