"We're about an hour and a half into the conversation on social media. We've got years before we understand how to execute on social."
So said Brian Terkelson, president and managing director of ad-agency giant Starcom MediaVest Group's Liquid Thread division, commenting on branded-entertainment-focused panel at TheGrill Tuesday.
The discussion, moderated by Michael Kassan, chairman and CEO of MediaLink, also featured Scott Donaton (right), a former Ad Age editor who now serves as president and CEO of branded-entertainment company Ensemble, and Adam Smith, executive VP and partner, United Entertainment Group, another company specializing in branded entertainment.
For his part, Smith compared the social-media strategy of most brands to the early days of the internet, when companies launched en masse, poorly designed web pages that were hardly ever updated.
"You'll have companies that start a Facebook page, and you go back weeks later, and nothing's changed," noted Smith (left).
Noting that Twitter is in the early stages of establishing advertising programs like Paid Tweets, Terkelson noted that, "Silicon Valley doesn't even have a handle" on social-media marketing yet.
Also featured in the broad panel discussion was the integration of Madison Avenue messaging into Hollywood-created content — and there was a good amount of disagreement as to how much evolution has occurred.
"You go back seven years, we were having the exact same discussion," said Terkelson (below right), "which is just sad."
Donaton disagreed. "In 2004, there was a fear-based reaction (among advertisers) to such things as DVRs," he said. "You had people say, 'Oh my God, if the consumer is able to hide from my intrusive commercials, I'll have to put my ads into the content.' Today, brands have gained the ability to be part of the story-telling."
The key evolution, Donaton believes, is the desire among advertisers to have a more collaborative involvement with Hollywood content production — to get in earlier in the development process and have more of a say, rather than just have notes get passed along to a showrunner.
"We're a lot closer today than we were in 2004 to this being a true partnership," Donaton said.
"Brands are trying to get involved as early as possible to extend the conversation as long as possible," Smith added.
Also discussed was the changing perspective of advertisers and their agencies — Terkelson believes that as the business of branded entertainment continues to evolve, advertisers will become increasingly assertive.
"Up until now, advertisers have increasingly gone along in a very subservient manner, but they're not going to do this for much longer," he said. "They're going to get cranky."
Hollywood, Terkelson added, would benefit from seeing some of the client notes the agencies typically receive from advertisers.
"What this coast could benefit from is a better understanding of what the brands' needs are," he explained.