A seminar at Bournemouth University explored the challenges and opportunities of branded content, and how academics can collaborate with industry on research around the topic.
Branded content is an emerging form of advertising, where content is funded and created to promote a particular product or brand.
The second AHRC Branded Content Research Network seminar featured academic presentations alongside industry speakers, including regional agency Bright Blue Day, the Branded Content Marketing Association and research and planning agency the Nursery.
Professor Iain MacRury, BU Deputy Dean for Research in the Faculty of Media and Communication, is Co-Investigator for the AHRC Branded Content Network.
He said: “The event is a conversation about branding but it’s particularly about an emerging form which is branded content, and the idea that there are all sorts of interesting communications – film, TV, video, poetry - which are commissioned by or which promote somehow different aspects of goods in the way that advertising used to do.
“In some ways it’s very continuous with what advertising is but is also in interesting ways quite different. So we are trying to orchestrate a conversation between people who are stakeholders in different aspects of that and learn more about it.”
Among the speakers was poet Jeremiah ‘Sugar J’ Brown, who was commissioned to write a poem for Nationwide’s Voices ad campaign, and shared his experience of producing branded content – as well as a poetry performance.
“I’m just giving more information on the experience and different perspectives from the creative side of it as well, as an artist because I think potentially that’s something that’s harder to have access to,” he said.
The Branded Content Research Network is an academic research and networking project supported by funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Its key aim is to aid research and collaboration between academics, industry professionals and civil society interests to explore branded content practices and their media policy implications.
Dr Catherine Johnson, who gave the keynote speech at the seminar, said there were potentially a number of challenges surrounding branded content – including regulation and skills and training.
“It’s much harder to judge what’s an advert and what isn’t,” she said. “So do we need new frameworks to think about how we regulate something that doesn’t look like an advert but might come in and address people in ways that they don’t necessarily think of it as advertising?
“I think it’s really important that we talk to and engage with the people that make this sort of content – that we don’t just automatically dismiss it because it’s something different or new or potentially troubling and actually we need to recognise the kinds of creativity that are involved in all sorts of marketing communications, but particularly around branded content.”