BTV blurs line between editorial, advertorial

A Vancouver-based production company is offering what it touts as a unique means for businesses to use TV to attract interest from the investment community. But some observers are troubled by the way the product seems to blur the lines between...

A Vancouver-based production company is offering what it touts as a unique means for businesses to use TV to attract interest from the investment community. But some observers are troubled by the way the product seems to blur the lines between editorial and advertorial.

In January of 1998, Milky Way Entertainment launched BTV – Business Television. A weekly half-hour magazine show, BTV is now in its fourth season on Global’s Prime network, and on ONtv in Ontario.

Each episode of BTV includes profiles of two different companies, generally running six to seven minutes apiece. In return for exposure on the show, each company agrees to purchase a repackaged version of the profile – either on video or as a multimedia CD-ROM with Internet interactivity – for use as promotional material.

BTV is not paid programming, insists Milky Way Entertainment owner Taylor Thoen, who serves as executive producer and host. The companies that take part do not shell out for any of the production or airtime, although they do pay approximately $10,000 for the repackaged profile.

"A lot of people perceive it as an infomercial, but once you watch the show you realize that’s not how it is," Thoen says. "Our goal is to endeavour to profile companies, not to pump them up, or to slander them."

There’s no disclaimer on the broadcast to indicate that the content is anything but pure editorial, but Thoen says viewers are encouraged to seek further information on the profiled companies via their Web sites (the URLs for which are shown on-screen).

Billed as "insider profiles on the companies that count," BTV spotlights mainly small to mid-sized publicly traded Canadian firms. These companies are generally eager to get their message out to potential investors, Thoen says, but oftentimes aren’t sexy or controversial enough to get themselves covered by the mainstream media.

Many businesses are looking for precisely this kind of vehicle, says Dean Butler, director of media services with Vancouver-based Glennie Stamnes Strategy. He likens BTV’s profiles to the kind of sponsored supplements that publications like BC Business have been running for years.

Not everyone, however, is without reservations about the concept. Mark Sherman, president of Media Experts in Toronto, says it’s tough to see the distinction between paying for the profile package and paying for the production. And either way, if the story is paid for, one can hardly expect it to be entirely unbiased.

For his part, Genesis Media CEO Bruce Claassen says the BTV concept appears to be a reasonable marketing tool. But he also suggests that the program should feature disclaimers, to ensure that viewers are clear on the true nature of the content. "You don’t want them confused that it’s an investigative piece," he says.

BTV’s primary audience, Thoen says, consists of investors, business owners, managers and entrepreneurs – mostly males between the ages of 25 and 55.

Since 1998, the show has profiled a wide range of companies, including BPI Financial, Co-operators Group, Corby Distilleries and National Health Care.

In addition to its deals with Prime and ONtv, BTV is allied with Yahoo! Broadcast.com and StockHouse.com, both of which provide on-demand distribution of the series and the individual company profiles via the Internet.

Thoen says that BTV has recently broadened its scope to include profiles of companies from the U.S. as well as Canada, and is currently negotiating distribution in the American market. (She expects a deal to be finalized by early summer.)

BTV is also priming itself for a move into the U.K., Hong Kong and Japanese markets over the next 12 to 18 months.

While BTV is unique in Canada, Thoen says, it will face competitors in foreign markets – but most of these deliver a product that is explicitly advertorial.

"Our style is different – we go on location, interview key principals where they work and show what they do," she says. "We want to take this model into other markets. We’ve honed our skills here, so we know what works and what doesn’t."

Also in this report:

- Shorter formats a double-edged sword: By opting for spots of 15 seconds or less, advertisers can stretch their advertising dollar — but they may also be contributing to the problem of clutter p.TV1

- CCM arouses interest with sperm spot p.TV4

- Painting the smaller canvas: How creatives make their mark in 15 seconds or less p.TV4

- Red Rose resurrects brand with funeral spot: Retires ‘Only in Canada…’ tagline in favour of ‘A cup’ll do you good’ p.TV6

- Ford Focus puts the squeeze on credits: Sponsored previews of top-rated shows in bid to give campaign added impact p.TV8

- Jetta campaign a brand-new love story: Automaker bids farewell to popular Phil and Loulou characters p.TV10

- Is TV worth the money? p.TV13

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.
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The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.