In 2016, Dave Roberts joined ENGINE to launch their London office. As chief content officer, he helps brands achieve genuine engagement through creativity and strategy - a useful day job when it comes to his position as president of the entertainment jury at eurobest 2019.
Here, he explains how branded entertainment has evolved over its relatively short lifespan so far, as well as what he’ll be looking for when it comes to awarding excellence in the category.
Q> As this year's Entertainment Jury President– how will you work with your jury to define what excellence in the category looks like?
Dave The Entertainment Jury comes from an enormously diverse range of backgrounds, from record labels, to branded content specialists, to production companies. The one thing that aligns us is a passionate belief in the importance of helping define what great branded Entertainment looks like. Our criteria will undoubtedly evolve, but our baseline are four key criteria; Is the work recognisable as entertainment in its ‘form’? Does it achieve that holy grail of integrating a brand and its messages with true editorial integrity? Is there evidence of how it’s broken through into culture in the way that true entertainment does? Finally, we’ll be asking what was the intent – did the team clearly set out to create a piece of entertainment, rather than advertising?
Q> What are your views on this conflation of the two worlds of brands and entertainment?
Dave> Both industries are going through a period of dramatic disruption. Nobody (regardless of what they may say) has the answer, so the only option open to us is collaborative experimentation. The onus is on like-minded people from both sides of the equation to come together, share insight, share creativity and build new solutions – solutions which stand on their own two feet as pieces of brand work and as entertainment.
Q> How has branded entertainment evolved in recent years, what’s driven the change?
Dave> Branded Entertainment is still relatively young, so it continues to evolve at pace. Perhaps the biggest change we’ve seen in the past five years is the explosion of content studios being created within digital publishers – offering brands and agencies fresh, creative ways to reach highly engaged communities of interest. Undoubtedly this move (as within the wider world of advertising) has been driven by the need to unearth new commercial opportunities as traditional display revenues struggle. Additionally, and fortuitously, it’s also happening at a point at which (certainly amongst younger audiences), attitudes to brand integration or involvement are changing – if it’s done right and the brands add value.
Q> How important is it for brands to generate genuinely entertaining content?
Dave> You’re competing for share of an audience’s attention, which means you’re competing with entertainment that people will put their hand in their pocket and pay to consume. That’s a pretty high bar. If you’re not entertaining, you’re not going to get close. This is the most significant shift in mindset for any client looking at a branded entertainment strategy. Obsessing about how distinctive your branding is or how you’ve reflected your brand world will be meaningless if you’ve not started with the fundamental question of why an audience would choose to spend time with what you’re producing.
Q> What excites you about European Creativity?
Dave> The thing that struck me the most when judging Entertainment was just how much the strongest and most creative work managed to completely overcome any cultural or language barriers.
Q> Over the course of your career, what was the best lesson you’ve learnt?
Dave> Even if you’re drowning in data, never underestimate the importance of gut feel and instinct.
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