The morality of program-makers partnering with media companies formed the overlying thread of a discussion about branded television at Sheffield Doc/Fest yesterday (June 14).
Using a survey of Doc/Fest attendees taken ahead of the festival, moderator Alex Connock, director of new business at Shine UK, illustrated that many producers feel that in order for their companies to survive, they must make compromises by working with – and potentially losing editorial control to – corporations.
North One Television’s head of commercial and digital John Nolan, who is currently working on branded projects with Shell and a cross-platform project with an unnamed company, said that brand-funded television and film are a rich part of North One and All3Media’s revenue stream.
But not all relationships between brands and a production companies go smoothly. He cited an example of a brand demanding one of their products be in a program’s scene.
“You have to look at the quality of people in the room,” he advised, adding: “Just because it’s branded, doesn’t mean you have to take away your moral compass.”
Nick Cohen, managing partner and UK head at MediaCom, whose company works with Volkswagen, Universal Pictures and others, had advice for filmmakers going into a branded project.
“The way to do it right is to go to whoever is doing the funding, sit down with them, and talk – so the principles of the producer and the principles of the brand are maintained.”
Cohen also advised that it is worth it for interested producers to ask broadcasters if there is a brief out, since branded partnerships often start with a brand talking to a broadcaster.
However, “most brands like to lead the strategy,” he said.