Benjamin Palmer, CEO of The Barbarian Group, has some intriguing things to say about branded content.
What makes a great show, game or film? Artistic merit, humanity, story, talent. These occasionally overlap with marketing demographic, industry sector and brand penetration, but more often than not, they do not. God, that’s sad. We’re sort of in denial about that, aren’t we? But I think perhaps it’s best that we accept it: Great art does not necessarily have a brand angle. So there’s going to be some compromise to make the content and the brand story align with each other, and if the brand is footing the bill, guess who’s going to win that argument every time?
I could respond in 100 different ways to this line of thinking. For one, what’s the C-word doing in there? Compromise will suck the life from the work. Every time.
Brands who want to play in this sphere simply need to stay out of the way. And the agency has to drill home the fact that content is not advertising. It’s a different game with its own set of ground rules.
In his closing paragraph Palmer does say we in the ad biz ought not wait around hoping Silicon Valley or the entertainment industry will solve this for us. So he does believe in content, but he wants to see it work harder for brands.
My desire is the exact opposite. I want to see brands work harder to align themselves with content. Content that their customers will seek out, spend time with and share with others.