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Brand Journalism: “It’s a Trap!”

March 10, 2011

I frequently get asked by coworkers why a journalist would ever consider jumping to advertising. When I answer “industry stability,” they laugh and shake their heads.*

Obviously, there’s more to it than that. In terms of day-to-day tasks, there are a lot of similarities between the brand journalism work I do for JWT and the “actual journalism” work I used to do at PC Magazine and elsewhere. And beyond the daily work, our brand journalism efforts aim to be considered actual journalism—non-fiction storytelling that deals with relevant issues.

JWT and our clients have accomplished real-world success stories around this principle, and David Eastman and I will be talking about them during the brand journalism panel on Saturday at SXSW. We’ll be joined by Shiv Singh, head of digital at PepsiCo, who will be discussing the groundbreaking Pepsi Refresh project. The ad industry’s favorite curmudgeonly commentator, Bob Garfield, will be moderating the panel, and won’t let us get away with any marketing BS. To the extent that panels can be a real hoot, this panel will be a real hoot.

If you’re interested in a pre-panel primer, say “pre-panel primer” 5 times fast and then check out an interview I did with Razorfish’s Scatter/Gather blog. I discuss what brand journalism is, what it isn’t, and what some of the challenges and benefits are.

I also noticed this morning that the panel was mentioned in an article on The Online Journalism Review. In a Q&A, Robert Hernandez asks:

RH: “Did you notice the number of advertising panels that suggested storytelling and journalism as the answer? Brand Journalism: The Rise of Non-Fiction Advertising is the session that surprised me. Journalism to save advertising? I might have to check it out.”

Pekka Pekkala: Umm… yes. That sounds like a trap :D

It’s a trap alright. This panel is fully operational! See you on Saturday.




* Seriously, the ad industry is a rock of stability compared to the media right now. The big agencies will still be here in 5 years, which is more than you can confidently say for any media publication not owned by News Corp.

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