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Welcome. Thank you for finding us and I hope you join us for this exciting new project. The Branded Content Research Network seeks to to bring together academic researchers, industry and civil society interests to explore the practices and implications of branded content, native advertising and the convergence of media and marketing communications.

Something profound is underway in the relationship between marketers and media. Increasingly media and marketing are merging. After the digital ‘big bang’ advertisers have an ever-expanding universe of opportunities to present brand information to consumers. Print display ads, television spots and outdoor posters all remain heavily used forms of ‘paid’ media, but brands increasing produce their own branded media content (‘owned’ media) and they seek to integrate advertising more seamlessly into the editorial forms and flows of publishing, audio and audiovisual content, and social communications. Marketers are moving past banner ads and into forms of ‘native advertising’ where marketing is integrated into digital content so as to be ‘native’ to the editorial environment in which it appears. The integration of media and advertising is not new, but it is intensifying. Branded content is occurring in a multitude of mutating forms across news media, entertainment and social media.

Most of the analysis and discussion of branded content to date has occurred within the work of industry practitioners, trade associations and specialist trade media. Yet the growth of branded content and native advertising engages a much wider range of concerns about the implications for content producers and consumers, concerns that criss-cross work and business, education, politics, culture and civil society. This network aims to support, connect and promote academic research and study and to provide opportunities for discussion and exchange between academics, industry and civil society. Why has branded content grown so rapidly? How is this reshaping what content providers do, think and feel? What kinds of research do we have on production, distribution and consumption of branded content, and what is needed? How do different stakeholders perceive the benefits and costs of integrating advertising into media?

Branded content is both an economic and cultural phenomena that requires cross-disciplinary resources and new approaches to media and marketing analysis. It is a significant part of the economic dimensions of media, as media enterprises seek advertising revenue, but it is also profoundly cultural, affecting the ways content and communications are produced, used and shared. It marks the development of digital marketing practices and the merging of ‘paid’ (advertising),’earned’ (public relations), ‘owned’ (marketers’ content) and ‘shared’ (social media) communications. Assessing the impact and policy implications of these practices requires a better understanding of the cultural forms and practices that are developing amongst producers and users, and the attitudes of those affected. Fast-evolving practices of media-marketing integration also challenge existing rules and regulations and require research to inform debate on the values and objectives for public policy and the suitability of different forms of governance. This network project aims to investigate the changing relationships between media and marketing and to promote research, collaboration and dialogue across a very wide range of interests and perspectives.

The first in a series of seminars will be held on 3 November 2016 at the University of East London. With the theme ‘Investigating Branded Content’, members of the network and invited speakers from industry will discuss the scope of branded content practices today, survey existing research, and consider key research needs and research questions from a variety of perspectives.

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Jonathan Hardy
Principal Investigator, Branded Content Research Network
Professor of Media and Communications, University of East London


The project formally began on 1 September 2016. Some of the members of the advisory group for the Branded Content Research Network met together for the first time on 6 September. Those present included Prof. Jonathan Hardy, Principal Investigator/UEL; Prof.Iain MacRury, Co-Investigator/Bournemouth University; Andrew Canter, CEO of the Branded Content Marketing Association; Prof. Chris Hackley, Royal Holloway University, Nusrat Ahmed, Research Impact Officer, UEL, and (via Skype) Dr. Andrew McStay, Bangor University.

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