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What can advertisers learn from the BBC and ITV about strengthening editorial branding

The BBC and ITV are adapting the way they commission shows to the way they market them, moves marketers should heed if they are going to bridge the gap between brand comms and publishing.

Broadcasters and brands are both adapting to a broken advertising model by attempting to monetise content; the biggest difference between the two attempts so far, is that the broadcasters are one step closer to the work, able to call on in-house commissioning expertise that’s bringing the BBC and ITV far closer to their audiences than their traditional set-ups ever did.

At the BBC this transition is pushing its marketers take more responsibility of the creative, meaning that rather than go to an agency for social media – which it did for a while – it’s all handled internally and consequently can be more reactive. And when its marketers do still work with agencies there’s more impetus to get them all together in a room instead of confining them to different parts of the same brief.

“We’ve essentially brought half the agencies in-house because you need to be all together to have that responsiveness,” said Hugh Davies, head of marketing for BBC Drama at a roundtable event hosted by Gravity Road. “At the BBC it’s not just about trying to stand for one thing, we’re trying to communicate the essence of a range of topics.”

Davies’ comments are emblematic of what fellow speakers from ITV and Just So said is how advertisers are moving away from roster agencies in favour of working with creative outfits that have strong ideas. These advertisers are also adapting internally, creating roles such as 'head of content' to help source ideas and importantly provide a certain degree of freedom from sales not usually prescribed to marketers.

To adapt, those commissioning sensibilities to how it works with advertisers, ITV’s marketing unit has (rather ironically) brought back many of the hallmarks of advertising agencies including account management, planning and most recently traffic. Given the demand to churn out more content, particularly from its real-time studio, the broadcaster’s marketers put in place a system to manage that flow of work better.

“When we’re working with our commercial partners we’re aware that whatever we make is not just competing with our direct rivals, it’s competing with everything that’s ever been made,” said head of marketing and media at ITV, Will Worsdell.

It’s a challenge many broadcasters and advertisers are struggling with at a time when audience attention is at a premium.

“The pressure we have is that everything does have to be commercialised,” continued Worsdell. “That’s not to say that we should wait for a new product or show to promote before we do anything. We do need to be always on but we have a greater challenge; Its very hard to make an argument for [content] when its difficult to link it back to the bottom line [in the short-term].”

The views of both broadcasters begs the question whether advertisers will ever realise there’s a time and a place for branded content, and another for a more traditional selling job when there’s not much interest in the product? It’s why agencies like Gravity Road and Just So were founded with the intention of comprehensively answering ‘why use content marketing?’

“I think some brands don’t think of content marketing from the audiences’ perspective. They don’t think about the response they want from the audience and almost make content for themselves,” said Jonny Madderson, founder and director at Just So.

In many cases content is still coming from the same old linear process of broadcasting a message that’s in response to a sales message. Indeed, many companies have attributed this problem to the difference between content that costs sells something and content that makes money.

“It’s when advertisers get further along that line that changes will happen,” said Ruairi Curran, head of planning at Gravity Road.

“A lot of brands have things like newsrooms so that they can react to something quickly. Many broadcasters have an in-house team so they don’t necessarily always have to go out and commission something just because it’s a message. It can come without having to wait for something.”