Should Adland Care About the BBC?

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As my mum shouts from the lounge, “quick it’s starting,” I’m rushing from the kitchen spilling boiling tea on my hands. The gentle scolding is worth it, it’s 8 pm on Sunday evening in 2006 and Planet Earth is about to come on the telly.

Ten years on I’m shouting from my lounge at my boyfriend, “Planet Earth is about to start. Hurry up!” His response, “press pause then.” A decade after it first aired, Attenborough returned to the BBC with a second series of the much-loved Planet Earth. The technology may have changed, instead of the TV I’m streaming the show through my laptop, but the same excitement remained. This is the power of the work produced by the BBC – a British institution.

However, it is this exact technology that prevents the dangerous tea run, that is posing a threat to the BBC. New platforms like Netflix, Apple TV and Amazon Prime are not only stealing viewing figures but creative talent. In the last couple of years, Zane Lowe has left BBC Radio for Apple, Bake Off has moved to Channel Four and Jeremy Clarkson raced towards Amazon. Today’s panel chaired by Jez Nelson, CEO and CCO of Somethin’ Else, have come together to discuss whether the BBC and adland can work together to secure the future of the beeb.

Joining Nelson is James Purnell, Director of Radio and Education at the BBC and Jon Wilkins, Executive Chairman of Karmarama. Purnell begins by assuring the audience that after the recent charter the future of the BBC’s funding is safe for at least the next five years and cements the brand’s position in time of change.

“The way that society, the internet and these platforms (like Netflix) are changing in the world, probably means there will be more need for the BBC in the future. In a world of fake news and not knowing what to trust and what’s good.  It’s that trusted guide role that becomes important.”

Nelson steers the conversation towards how the BBC is attracting and retaining creative talent when other brands like Apple TV might be seen as ‘sexier’ to work for and give more creative freedom. Wilkin’s praises the BBC for the wonderful influence it has had on the creative industry, “most people cut their teeth at the BBC. It’s a breeding ground for talent.” Wilkin’s goes on to say that most of his team have at some point worked at the BBC, it’s how a lot of the industry started out.

Karmarama continues to work with BBC because it offers them “a lot of creative freedom.” Wilkin’s believes that those who have turned their back on the BBC, because they might deem other platforms as having more freedom, are rudely mistaken. Cheeky in his disposition, he discusses the work Karmarama recently worked on for CBeebies, “the pay isn’t the best, but the work is a joy. it’s the jewel in the crown people love working on it.”

The seminar draws to a close discussing the future of the BBC brand. Purnell highlights a current issue facing the BBC which is reaching the under 45 viewers. His solution is ensuring they get the right content to consumers on the right platform and marketing it as such. Wilkin’s adds to this saying that the BBC should be pushing it’s branding all year, not just when it feels the pressure too. “You have to do something to remind people of the BBC of the value.”

The final question for Purnell from Nelson, what is the biggest challenge for the BBC?

“The big thing to crack is creating social impact within the growing platforms. What’s unique about the BBC? It’s a public service here to help enhance lives and that is both us understanding how best to do it – faster with innovation – and how we can measure it so we know we’re doing it well. It’s about more than just consumption, it’s about helping people’s lives.”

With the new charter in place, and plans to focus more on the internal BBC production team, for now at least it seems the BBC is safe as the home for the future of the UK’s best creatives.

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