Oliver believes broadcasting is going through the most disruptive time since the TV was invented. Celebrities such as chefs are no longer reliant on TV commissioners to get their content out there but are instead using YouTube to talk directly with their audiences.
“I’ve got a free spirit and traditional broadcasting has its fair share of restrictions for talent. The commissioning process is hard although slowly people are changing. I think I’ve earned the right to say I’m an expert of sorts and I think there’s interesting stories to be told. I like the idea that marketing departments can be the new TV commissioners,” he said.
Oliver now runs three YouTube channels, having launched Family Food Tube earlier this month, with more than 1.6 million subscribers to the original Food Tube alone. The TV chef has also worked with a number of brands on content for the site and on advertising.
However he says he won’t just work with any brand and any deal must be aligned with what his brand stands for around nutrition and healthy eating.
“I can’t just take money from anyone to create content but if you can sit it out and do it right, and keep plugging away, the fact you don’t work with just anyone means there is value in who you do work with.”
He is also keen to work with more brands on longer term projects around education on healthy food and helping them become a force for positive change. He thinks the marketing industry is too short term and needs to look beyond the next one or two years to really drive long term societal change.
“Governments are quite slow and businesses can be very agile in comparison. But brands need to think more long term. It [marketing] is a short term industry. It’s not anyone in marketing’s fault but I was told today that the average CMO does 23 months, CEO is about four years, the government about the same. It just makes it all very short-term.”
He added: “Brands can do more, the rules of the game are always up for renewal. We still have problems with clarity and labelling and advertising too directly to children. We were one of the first countries in the world to ban advertising junk food during kids programming but it hasn’t gone far enough. If you sit down with the family to watch the X Factor you still see them.”
Oliver believes brands that speak up about issues that matter to their customers will see an uplift commercially as well. He pointed to the example of McDonald’s, which continues to see sales growth in the UK after focusing on its charity work and the provenance of its meat.
“There are businesses that have changed in a certain territory and worked on the right things and invested in culture and purpose. Take McDonald’s in the UK which has done some quite surprising things,” he said.
Supermarkets in particular he thinks can do more, particularly around customer shopping and eating habits and encouraging them to think more healthily. The new government legislation on teaching children how to cook is a particular opportunity. Oliver hopes supermarkets will get involved not just by “throwing money” but by talking to teachers, finding out what they need and offering tools, resources and support.
“I’m not very well versed in a lot of marketing talk but heart, soul, purpose and being able to have a really great business and have your teams feel good about what they do – that’s do-able and every company can contribute,” he said.