Branded entertainment is acknowledged as a rapidly evolving marketing discipline - with the potential to engage audiences in ways most traditional advertising is no longer able to do.
So it's understandable why agencies like ours are so preoccupied with trying to articulate what it looks like. It's the evolutionary equivalent of homo sapiens trying to run before he can walk.
Because brand clients need to know exactly what it is they are buying before they can budget for it and sign it off.
Some really valuable and important work's being done by agencies, not least in helping to convince clients as to branded entertainment's merits and successfully delivering strategic and tactical branded entertainment projects, but also in helping to define the discipline, its processes, benchmarks and deliverables.
For example, Ogilvy Entertainment's BEAM model, also presented at this year's MIPtv, and Digitas' NewFront forum are helping to raise Branded Entertainment's profile, give it structure and definition.
Following the theme, today's NABS 'Evolution of Branded Content' session involved further dissection of the discipline's DNA by an industry panel of Charles Darwins representing the agency, production and distribution species.
These guys brought experience and case studies to the table to define how branded entertainment is evolving – collaboration and integrity being key points.
But despite all this definition, there's still a missing link in branded content's evolutionary chain. Because if we're all agreeing on what branded entertainment is and how it's best delivered, then why have only a relatively small number of brands started adopting it?
Perhaps it's because many brand owners still don't really understand why they should use branded entertainment, its role within the marketing mix, and what core marketing problems it can help solve.
And to this end, I'd have liked the panel conversation to embrace brand opinions and the fundamental question agencies should also be answering for their clients.
As Chet Fenster at MEC Entertainment put it, the briefs they get are just general marketing challenges that in their opinion happen to be best answered with branded entertainment. But most brand owners will still want to understand why this approach is being taken, together with a clear definition and explanation of the objectives branded entertainment campaigns can achieve.
There will come a time when it's normal for brand clients to specifically issue branded entertainment briefs. By answering the right questions we can certainly help speed up the evolutionary process.