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AFP: Goldmine or minefield?

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26 August 2010

Advertiser Funded Programming (AFP) has been around since the 1930s when brands such as Proctor and Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive funded daytime dramas in the US – and the soap opera was born.

Until recently, however, examples of AFP were relatively scarce on British television. In particular, it was mistrusted by commissioning editors who disliked the idea of advertisers being closely involved in programme-making.

The recession has changed all that. Now, jokes one producer, you can barely get a commission at some cash-strapped broadcasters unless you walk in the door with an AFP deal.

In recent months, example, shows such as Five's Chinese Food in Minutes and Family Food Fight, were backed by Sharwoods and Flora respectively. Likewise, More4’s TV Book Club (pictured) was recently funded by Specsavers.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that a session titled The Branded Entertainment: Goldmine or Minefield? was packed out at last month’s Edinburgh TV Festival.

Here the four panellists give their views on the growing area of advertiser funded programming

Paul Day Vp branded entertainment and digital media, Cineflix Productions
Branded entertainment projects continue to grow in both size and frequency. An increasing range of advertisers are looking to connect with consumers in more inventive ways, engagement rather than interruption being the key for many. Cineflix believes that each project must fulfill the usual creative criteria before being associated with a brand. Stakeholders should then be engaged, with content specialists at media agencies working alongside broadcaster and production company to manage brand expectations from a creative and regulatory point of view. It is also key that other media are involved to increase media value across the board.

Mark Wood
Founding partner, Krempelwood
The will is there for the UK AFP market to grow from an estimated £15m in 2010 to £150m+ within five years. Successful TV shows are difficult to conceive. Creating them from a brand brief as a start point is an immense challenge. The vast majority of AFPs will find their way to air via producers charged with finding the funding for programming that broadcasters want to commission. Producers need to get their programmes in front of brands and demonstrate how the brand can be integrated into the programme and effectively market the brand. Krempelwood was formed specifically to fulfil this function and in the process build a conduit for brand briefs to the production community.

Nuno Bernardo
CEO, beActive Entertainment Branded entertainment is becoming more and more important as audience habits shift from live, linear broadcasts, to an On-demand, PVR based or Internet based consumption of moving images. With this paradigm shift, audiences are now able to skip ad breaks. Branded entertainment and product placement are two ways of putting the brands inside the content, so audiences can’t skip through them. But the big advantage is that if the brand is really integrated with the content, the impact will be higher than the traditional 30 seconds ad. As audiences tend to love shows and their characters, audiences will then start to engage at an emotional level with brands and products.

Katherine Marlow
Content partnership planner, ITV Commercial
Branded content has been around since the original “soaps” but it is enjoying a renaissance thanks largely to the current economic climate and the possible product placement changes. Projects with ITV have ranged from CITV to ITV1 peak, from factual to sport. The only limitations are the number of advertisers with the desire and understanding to take on projects and the quality of ideas generated – ultimately the job is to entertain our audiences. Branded content delivers better results if a client buys into a wide media strategy, of which a branded entertainment programme is just one part. We always urge clients and producers to come to us in the early stages of development to ensure it is something of interest to ITV’s commissioners before further work is undertaken.

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