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Developing the role and visibility of the promotional screen industries

Arts and humanities researchers at the University of Nottingham have pioneered the study of the promotional screen industries, and have raised the status of a vibrant sub-sector of the global creative industries. The research has helped shape strategic business planning, content planning and approaches to media promotion in leading creative organisations such as Red Bee Media, the BBC and the British Film Institute.

Through engagement with key media practitioners, project leaders Prof Paul Grainge and Dr Catherine Johnson have generated new ways of thinking about the role of promotion that have influenced the BBC’s use of online content. They have also helped the UK’s leading broadcast design company, Red Bee Media, to develop strategic business planning in TV and digital promotion. With an annual turnover of £130million, and a global client base including the BBC, UKTV, Virgin Media, CCTV and Discovery International, the involvement of Red Bee Media means the project’s influence is being felt on a worldwide stage.

Television props and promotional awards: the work of Red Bee Media. Credit: Paul Grainge
Television props and promotional awards: the work of Red Bee Media. Credit: Paul Grainge

“Through a series of AHRC-funded projects, with a deliberate focus on industry-academic knowledge exchange,” explains Prof Grainge, “we have deepened understanding of the role of promotional screen content within media life. Our findings have redressed the sometimes dismissive attitudes towards marketing and promotion within academic and industry discourse by highlighting the nature of promotion as a creative and professional discipline.”

Workshops run by the project team highlighted a need for promotional media such as logos, trailers and second-screen apps to be agile in a multiplatform and highly competitive media landscape. As Red Bee Media put it, the key industry question is how to “build bridges between content and viewers.”

The research has produced new knowledge about media promotion for the industry, and has helped spawn new attitudes that influence creative practice. It has informed educational content planning at the British Film Institute, and has given the BBC a new vocabulary in how it views, and reuses, its archival material in an online forum.

Victoria Jaye, Head of TV Content for BBC iPlayer said, “BBC has benefited from the thinking and the language I have brought back to the organisation in terms of how we conceive the opportunity and describe our public service role in the digital media landscape.”

Charlie Mawer, Red Bee’s Executive Creative Director, adds that the project’s subsequent reports have, “been influential in informing our strategic business planning.” He continues that a further benefit in connecting with academic work related to the industry has been in, “enriching our understanding of our craft and influencing our thinking on new areas of research to guide and inform our future business models.”

As a result of the collaboration between the University of Nottingham and Red Bee, Managing Director of Red Bee Creative, Andy Bryant, was made an honorary professor at the University in 2013. Red Bee now offers internships to members of the Creative Student Network at the University of Nottingham, and Bryant gives annual lectures and CV-writing clinics to students seeking to develop the multidisciplinary skills and experiences that will benefit the creative industry.

The research has led to a co-authored book called Promotional Screen Industries, published by Routledge in 2015.

For more information on the project visit: University of Nottingham - Project Website

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