Is Money for Jam the new template for commercial TV? Glenn Dyer observed in yesterday’s Crikey that the show is one long ‘free kick’ for the NAB, so we better strap on the shin pads — there could be more free kicks heading our way.

Seems like the upcoming SPAA Conference (Screen Producers Association of Australia) is devoting an entire day to ‘Branded Entertainment’. You know, programs paid for by brands in the hope you’ll find them entertaining and maybe even buy their product. Some of the potential partners you can network with are from Telstra Media, Ninemsn, Fremantle Media and … hang on … the ABC.

Sorry, the ABC?? Yep, the Executive Producer, Multiplatform Production, ABC TV will be there, hawking our ABC to producers hungry to make their name selling someone else’s.

Here’s what they’re offering on November 19:

When the Story fits the Brand — A Case Study of Baz Luhrmann’s Australia and the partnership with Tourism Australia: a discussion of the strategy behind one of the most successful tourism campaigns in recent years.

Translation: The, er, “strategy” was to throw a few more shots onto the shooting schedule, throw 40 million or so onto Baz’ budget and hope everyone forgot the “Where the Bloody Hell Are You?” disaster. Any questions?

Can content’s new “equity” producers help take Australian television to new heights? Brands are enthusiastically pursuing opportunities ushered in by digital television

Translation: To make it even harder to watch.

What do advertisers need from program partners?

Translation: More excuses to shove products before a shrinking audience.

How can brand interactivity better engage viewers with traditional shows?

Translation: By “traditional shows” we mean those that wasted advertising time by telling our stories or reflecting who we are as a nation. We are consumers, okay, so get used to it.

What role do programmers play in brand-generated shows?

Translation: “Pimp” comes to mind.

Where do brands fit into direct-to-web distribution and user-generated content?

Translation: They fit into the “crap” category.

Content owners and related advertisers will discuss their recent collaborations.

Translation: Showers will be provided for those feeling a bit filthy afterwards.

The Client is the Client and a Damn Fine Job The Client is doing: By producing hours of their own advertising content certain brands are in effect turning themselves into media companies

Translation: The same way strip joints turned themselves into gentlemen’s clubs.

They believe their tech-savvy market does not accept traditional advertising and figures prove they are right

Translation: The figures also show the tech-savvy folk hate advertising but let’s not confuse the issue, okay?

What can we learn from them?

Translation: How to kill the art of story telling by wedging products into it.

What hope do we have if we have to start making our stories fit Brands? Yes commercial TV has always been about flogging stuff but at least we knew how to identify the ads — they were loud and annoying. They aren’t the reason we watch film or TV. We were engaged by the stories, the writing, performing or production values. Not the ads. And we could always turn to the ABC to not try and sell us anything.

Isn’t that part of the ABC charter thingy? To NOT push commercial interests?

I know I sound like someone’s grandad, but this is outrageous. It’s not the idea that whole programs are just long ads (most morning shows are paid for that way) it’s that this is somehow legitimate. Like many SPAA wannabes, I’ve trudged the conference halls listening to TV execs talk about “connecting with audiences” and ‘telling our own stories’. They mean selling, apparently.

Luckily, I’m working on a pitch for a new series funded by a well known brand of laxatives. It’s about a regular Aussie family trying to stay regular. Working title is Backed Up to the Rafters but that might need a re-think.