For decades, brands have appeared in, funded, produced, marketed and sponsored entertainment. Proctor & Gamble set up their own production company to create radio serials back in the 30s. Soap operas had an obvious beginning. Recently in a meeting with Reg Grundy, our most famous television pioneer explained how brand funding gave him a start in television. Graham Kennedy's paid for 'in program advertisements' where he pilloried products for minutes on end were legendary.
No one called this brand entertainment.
In recent years, we've witnessed a product placement juggernaut and a move towards more sophisticated attempts to weave brands into storytelling. Taking their cue from the sports sponsorship model, brands have also become smarter about leveraging the value of their involvement with entertainment.
Everyone (including me) has called this brand entertainment, or something similar.
But it seems to me, this is where the whole damn trouble began - the emergence of this now ubiquitous phrase, and the invention of this 'new discipline' has a lot to answer for.
Frankly the language seems outdated, and it's holding us back.
Because as more than one observer has noted, the term 'brand entertainment' still has a bit of a stink about it.
Not in the minds of audience or marketers necessarily. But certainly in the worlds of media owners, TV networks, major production companies etc, there is still an unwarranted stigma attached to the notion of brand entertainment.
There is absolutely no guarantee that because a production company, online platform or network develops a show, finds the brands and then dictates their involvement that a) the brand integration will be any more sophisticated or better executed than if a brand were to do it all themselves (with the right partners and expertise) and b) the entertainment values will be superior.
Look at Network Nine's homemade, I'd suggest it's fairly heavyhanded on the brand integration front. Only it's not badged as brand entertainment, as it's a network commissioned show. And given it's ratings performance, it's hard to say that it's delivering for audiences.
Brands invested 50 million pounds in Quantum of Solace but no one says 'oh yeah, Quantum of Solace is a brand funded movie'.
As I've written about previously, brand funded entertainment is not entirely blameless for the position it finds itself in. However, given it's burdened by a legacy of language, I've got a simple solution.
I vote we kill off these phrases - brand funded TV, branded content, advertiser funded programming, brand entertainment, branded entertainment.
What entertainment is not brand funded one way or another?
Let's return to one simple word.
Which is after all what we're all working hard to create.
I reckon that solves everything.