The Branded Content Marketing Association, as befits any new and enthusiastic trade body, is busily talking-up the sector's business prospects.

According to the BCMA, the market for branded TV programmes will expand more than fourfold in 2004, rising to an estimated £22 million ($40.77m; €32.96m) from last year's £5m.

The fledgling association, launched last October at the Cannes Lions advertising festival, aims to address the changing needs of the advertising and branded content sector as marketers increasingly seek new ways to connect their brands with the public.

Says BCMA chairman Mark Boyd (Bartle Bogle Hegarty): "Advertisers fund the majority of television programming. As technology changes television and the viewers change their relationship with TV, the business model will move with great pace.

"Programme makers should be a key part of those business discussions. Successful production companies are starting to engage with advertisers. Ultimately advertisers, as brand builders, will be a key part of the solution in building equity and making use of entertaining intellectual property to best effect."

Branded TV content the BCMA defines as 'any spend from an advertiser, agency or marketing company that goes towards the creation, production and distribution of broadcast television programming'.

Sponsorships, paid-for advertising space and production are not seen as part of the branded content equation, as they happen after a programme is "in the can".

Worried at the growing fragmentation of the British TV market, the apparent decline in advertising reach and potential restrictions on advertising to children, marketers are increasingly turning to tactics such as product placement and branded content programmes.

Recent examples of the latter are The Pepsi Chart Show, Stella Film Festivals, Carling Homecoming and Coca-Cola's American Idol.

But consumer groups too are becoming increasingly unhappy, worried by the growth of covert product placements -- particularly in shows targeting younger viewers. Some lobbyists are now demanding a prominent on-air declaration of placements by funding advertisers.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK) and BCMA website; additional content by WARC staff