Media: Sneaking in through the back door

Advertiser-supplied programming is becoming more popular, as programme budgets fall.

CLASSIC FM has a cute new strand going out on Thursday evenings as part of its Newsnight programme. It's called Things to Come and it features interviews with big names in business, science, technology, medicine and the arts talking about the future.

Nothing strange about that, except that the programme is entirely paid for by the insurance company Equitable Life - it's an advertiser-supplied programme.

It's appropriate that the programme is about the future because this kind of programming... well, let's just say you're going to see a whole lot more of it.

Already Channel 5 and Mentorn are understood to be looking for advertiser money to boost the budget on the Sunday afternoon entertainment programme Exclusive! Things to Come itself ran on Channel 4 as a 15-part TV series in January this year. Most of the satellite channels are carrying at least one programme made with money directly from an advertiser.

"I think that, if not an explosion, we are going to see more and more of this sort of thing as broadcasters struggle with falling budgets and increased air time and advertisers find their audience fragmenting on digital television," says Tess Alps, executive chair of Drum PHD, the media-buying agency that put together the Things to Come deal and worked with Channel 4 and Waterstone's on 1997's Books of the Century programme.

It's not surprising. Given that ITV2, the much-trumpeted digital sister channel to ITV, will launch with a programme budget of pounds 42m - less than half of Channel 5's annual programme spend - you can see the broadcasters' need for programming money. So why should the advertisers comply?

For a couple of reasons. Advertisers love sneaking in through the back door so that you don't instantly file their communication in the mental wastepaper basket, as you do with direct mail.

The sneakiest way is through advertiser-supplied programming, where the advertiser makes a show. Such programming is old news in the United States. After all, soap operas were called soap operas because they were made by soap companies in the 1920s. Soap companies are still the biggest investors. The rights to ITV's Wheel of Fortune are owned by Unilever, while Channel 4's Northern Exposure is made by Procter and Gamble.

So concerned are some powerful advertisers by the declining programme budgets of cash-strapped broadcasters, that they also see this kind of programming as a safeguard against declining standards, believe it or not.

In 1994, P&G's chairman and chief executive, Edwin Artz - the nearest thing to a god in advertising - said that the only way forward for TV advertisers was to increase their involvement in programming, ironically to ensure its high quality. P&G promptly signed a $150m deal with Paramount Studios for programme development.

In the UK in 1995, the Daily Express helped fund ITV's Saturday evening game show, Raise the Roof, and Pepsi Cola coughed up for Channel 4's late- night Friday youth show, Passengers.

In both cases, the funding advertiser then did a separate deal with the broadcaster to sponsor the programme. Now, however, things are more out in the open. Channel 5's Pepsi Chart Show is paid for by Pepsi and made by the production company Broadcast Innovations. Robert Dodds, Broadcast Innovations' managing director, is the man behind that show as well as Pepsi's first foray with Passengers. In one sense, that is. In another, he's jointly behind it with Malcolm Gerrie, famed as the producer of The Tube and The White Room. "

In 1996, we sat down with Pepsi and persuaded them to work on building the Pepsi Chart into a property that could be used throughout its communications, whether as corporate entertainment, on bottle or in-store promotions, a straightforward TV sponsorship or any other possible option," he says. "We're now two-thirds of the way there. It only really works in an international capacity because Pepsi pays pounds 40,000 per week for the programme. In return, it owns the world-wide rights to the show and licenses Channel 5 to use it in the UK. Without the international dimension, it would be a very expensive deal."

This sort of programming is fraught with problems, as readers who recollect Heineken's Hotel Babylon will know. A Heineken brand manager issued a memo asking for the audience to contain more white faces, creating red faces at the beer company and the producers, Planet 24, alike. Dodds says the industry has been on a learning-curve and reckons that he can avoid such embarrassments in the future.

"There's going to be a lot of people putting out cookery shows on the Carlton Cookery Network in the next few years who are going to be wasting their money," he argues. "These deals have to work for the broadcaster, the advertiser and the audience, or we're all wasting our time.

"The advertiser needs the full sub-brand of the programme; the broadcaster - especially the big terrestrial broadcasters with the big budgets - needs something more than a free programme, and the audience needs something that's worth watching. If you get all that right, you're in business."

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?