When I think of the old term ‘advertiser funded content’ (AFC), I’m reminded of my time as head of advertising at Vodafone in the early noughties, where – within the £70m brand advertising budget – I ring-fenced £250k for some experimental AFC.
Through a specialist production company called New Moon (who went on to create the films which helped London win the summer Olympics bid), we had worked up some pilot footage for a sports and lifestyle TV show, harnessing our sponsorship of Manchester United and The Derby for a series with the working title, ‘Footballers’ lives’.
Granada loved it and gave us a juicy 9pm slot over six weeks, and we were good to go with sponsorship credits for our own show.
That’s until the ITV scheduler intervened putting it back to after News at 10 and the forecast ratings all went pear shaped.
Wind the clock forward just a few years to 2004 with 50% of UK homes enjoying 1Mb broadband, and something called YouTube arrived inviting us to ‘Broadcast Yourself’.
The new challenge was how to gain traction and shareability of a story with the focus not on the brand itself, but on some kind of higher brand purpose.