Sapient Forms In-House Broadcast Production Group

Content is on the rise in marcom circles. Just yesterday, I wrote, “I believe content is attractive to customers and prospects precisely because it’s not a commercial” in response to Lux Shampoo’s long-form ad.
But that’s not an opinion I share with Sapient Entertainment’s new Director of Entertainment and Executive Producer, Jim Houck. Houck doesn’t want anything to do with branded content. He wants to entertain!
“Branded content is nothing more than a super commercial, or, really long advertising,” says Houck. “The key difference between advertising and entertainment is this; advertising merely asks for money, entertainment pays the viewer back for their time. Entertainment is welcome, causing the door to the consumer’s mind to open, making it a superior vehicle for persuasion,” he adds.

Well, I certainly agree that entertainment is a “superior vehicle for persuasion.” That’s why great advertising works and shitty advertising does not.
I don’t want to get lost in competing definitions here, but content is something that presently lacks a concise and universal definition. To me, if the content in question is commissioned by a brand and it’s meant to help that brand sell more stuff, it’s branded content.
Whether it’s Houck’s “entertainment” or my “content” that brands commission, I think there’s a bigger question to answer. Do brand managers want to tell the brand’s story, or the story customers want to hear? In exceptionally rare cases, this will be the same thing. In every other case, the consumers will prefer to hear what interests them most (and will be be grateful to the brands that bring it to them, unadorned).



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.