Advertiser Funded Programming, or Branded Content as it is often referred to, describes programmes that are created with direct input of a client. The client’s contribution could be financial, creative or by allowing producers access to talent or events with which the client has an existing relationship.
- Advertiser Funded Programming (AFP), or Branded Content, provides the opportunity for brands to participate in the phenomenon that a successful TV show can be; on air, off air and online.
- Advertisers are buying into the editorial integrity of the programme and reaching consumers by association with the programme's values.
- AFP can do all the things TV sponsorship can do for a brand but also brings a number of significant benefits from having a deeper relationship with programming and with broadcasters and producers, from product placement opportunities to enhanced marketing synchronicity and even franchise creation.
People love television and are watching a lot of it. It is embedded in our culture and is much talked about and shared. All of which makes a close association with TV content an attractive and potentially very rewarding proposition for advertisers. AFP provides the opportunity for brands to participate in the phenomenon that a successful TV show can be; on air, off air and online. This is why a wide range of blue chip brands have now been involved in the making of branded content on TV in the UK, including Unilever, Proctor and Gamble, the COI, Adidas and Vodafone, to name but a few.
AFP: what it is and what it isn't
Understanding this is key to a positive outcome and time well spent.
AFP can be described as 'any means by which an advertiser can have a deeper relationship with programming product beyond traditional media activity'. By this definition there must be a funding relationship (full or part) with the programme or series. Put another way, it is 'beyond sponsorship' - where the advertiser’s money goes directly into production and leads to a degree of content ownership. It's programming that wouldn't exist without the advertiser partner.
It is not editorial about a brand.
Advertisers need to remember that they are buying into the editorial integrity of the programme and reaching consumers by association with the programme's values. This is not a restraint - it is the key to success. Gillette World of Sport was a great early example of an advertiser funded programme: it was a show that the target audience wanted - but it wasn’t about razors or shaving gel.
Why should brands get involved and how does AFP build on TV sponsorship?
Branded Content is often looked at as "sponsorship +", and this is a pretty good thing to keep front of mind. The consumer/brand relationship operates in a similar way. AFP can do all the things sponsorship can do for a brand - enhance, reinforce or shift a brand image - and more.
A TV sponsorship campaign, done well, can yield real benefits for a brand if the right show is available, at the right time; if it can be secured; and if there is sufficient time to plan and co-ordinate the exploitation before it goes to air. However, this is not always possible.
Through AFP, advertisers can negate these provisos, maximise the potential of TV sponsorship on their own terms and garner a number of significant benefits from having a deeper relationship with programming and with broadcasters and producers.
So what can branded content give you that builds on the established benefits of TV sponsorship?
- A competitive edge: great programmes that can be sponsored are in demand. Branded content can help you avoid a bidding war for a diminishing bowl of programming cherries. You can exclude your competitors by owning the commercial relationship from the start.
- Synchronicity: arrange TV content-led marketing at a time that suits your marketing cycle when there is no suitable TV content available "off the shelf".
- Maximum value: longer lead times mean more time to better plan and budget for an integrated campaign. More time too, to enable you to co-create the additional off-air and multi-platform content that consumers want.
- Deeper brand experience: a 30 or 60 minute brand experience; all of the content shapes consumers' attitude and image of brand (not just the branded credits).
- Additional exclusive content
- Franchise creation: AFP gives clients the opportunity to create a franchise from scratch that didn't exist before. It can also initiate the development of new programme or product categories.
There are many other potential marketing and commercial benefits, from title rights and credit integration, to product placement opportunities, promotional appearances and international barter.
Advertiser funded programming is a powerful vehicle around which a whole host of integrated marketing activities can revolve.