He's no socialist but Claes Loberg argues that within a decade media companies and marketers will face the real possibility that entertainment and news might just follow the music industry and face a revolution from rampant and free online downloading.
News, sport and entertainment, says Loberg, could be delivered without traditional media boundaries as marketers embrace niche markets and underwrite new delivery options for all the "stuff" smaller groups of like-minded people really want. Loberg runs a London-based brand content developer, Cocojambo, and is one of the founders of the rapidly expanding Brand Content Marketing Association (BCMA), which has now set up in the United Kingdom, North America and Australia. The latest example of a brand content initiative is the Richard Branson-backed Rebel Billionaire TV reality series to take on Donald Trump's The Apprentice. The show is full of Virgin Atlantic planes, logos and references but it's not overcooked. Loberg says these sorts of projects are only the start of where branded content will end-up And in case you think it's all hogwash, branded entertainment is starting to bite in Hollywood and Madison Avenue. Two weeks ago, the BCMA announced that Peter Guber, former chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures and Columbia and the producer behind hit feature films such as Gorillas in the Mist, The Color Purple, Deep and Seven Years in Tibet, would become joint chairman of the US guild along with US chairman of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Cindy Gallop. Guber is currently chairman and chief executive of leading independent Hollywood feature film, TV and multimedia studio, Mandalay Pictures. It is a huge coup for the BCMA and one which Loberg says has already generated 400 membership enquiries from Hollywood and Madison Avenue. Loberg's argument about "free content" in the future may sound like pie-in-the-sky – but he has a long line-up of counter arguments. The first is the booming TV-to-DVD market in the US. It essentially means people go online, choose the current TV shows they want to view and have episodes delivered via the post on DVD. "In the US it has doubled every year for the past four years," Loberg says. Interestingly, this approach does counter a long-held view that TV is a "lean-back" leisure pursuit where low effort is the order of the day. Loberg says the take-up of current TV shows on DVD demonstrates radical change is in the wings when internet data transfer speeds for streaming movie-length audiovisual match the downloading take-up of music. If the communications services industry, along with marketers, get the implications all sorts of opportunities await, he says. "Twenty years from now all content will be free. If you look at the way people are sharing music, the effect it's having on the music industry has to happen to film and TV. We're not seeing it so pronounced yet because file sizes are too big." Even though the music industry has countered the @Fc1:@Di:illegal downloading of music files with paid services, Loberg says unpaid music file swapping is still booming. "As recently as the last two months, [online music] piracy has overtaken iTunes downloads. In an ideal world, people should be paying but they don't believe it is actual piracy. They have been recording songs off the radio and using videos to record off TV for a long time." And it is here that Loberg says branded content can play a central role. He says it may be that in order for marketers to get the audiences they really want and conenet creators to earn the money the need, marketers will underwrite the cost of say TV programming, as they have always done, but this time by creating their own access points rather than relying on a traditional media models. All of this, Loberg concedes, throws up turbulence for both the traditional communication agency structures and film and TV producers. Collaboration and creative hubs are the key, he says, and for agencies, the planning and strategy function needs to be further split from "execution" expertise. "Planners need to start planning complete brand lifecycles rather than seasonal campaigns. Also, branded entertainment needs to be entertainment, not advertising. The entertainment should drive the audience to conversion places, not contain conversion tools. The entertainment should be about enticing, exciting and seducing, not selling. Agencies can then work on how to attract the audiences from the content to the detail inside the content or behind the content." When asked how content might then look in a decade, Loberg says "niche" is the only viable option. "At the moment we tune into a bland channel of everything and we click around with our remotes looking for something interesting," he says. "If there was a place that delivered a specific personality of content, a whole bunch of music that was tailored to me and people like me, that would be exciting. When we start being able to find what we want, when we want we will be looking for places to nest - places that seem to be in tune with our own personalities. Brands can be more focused than a TV network. Brands can get more creative and more interesting to the individual rather than the mass." Last week Loberg was in Australia to form the BCMA's local board, a decision which was postponed for at least a month after formation members decided they would follow the US BCMA example and seek at least two additional high profile industry appointments to demonstrate the importance of the trend. Current board members are: Brian Gallagher (Network Ten and Full Circle Entertainment); John Fawcett (George Patterson), James Greet (OMD); Paul Bradbury (Arnold); Simon Gallagher (TWI), James Grant Hay (Inshot) and Claes.
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