ITV’s multichannel challenge

After some delay, ITV is finally set to launch its new screen identity, designed by Red Bee Media. Scott Billings looks at the implications.

The launch of ITV’s new screen graphics next Monday is likely to be one of the highest profile visual identity rebrands this year – a major piece of broadcast design that will be closely scrutinised and stringently assessed (see News, page 5). The creative work of Red Bee Media, formerly BBC Broadcast, will sweep across ITV’s four channels, introducing reworked idents and logos at a time when the broadcaster faces a grinding erosion of advertising revenues and audience share.

It has been a major strategic undertaking by ITV’s director of marketing and commercial strategy Clare Salmon, who, according to sources, ploughed one third of her annual marketing budget into research alone. Salmon appointed M&C Saatchi in February last year, just one month after her arrival at ITV, to conduct a strategic assessment of the ITV brand. Red Bee Media’s creative work was produced in collaboration with the advertising agency.

Perhaps the most immediately visible shift in the new branding is the departure of the blue and yellow colour palette, first introduced by English & Pockett in 1998 (DW 2 October 1998) and retained under Bruce Dunlop Associates’ design work in 2002 (DW 24 October 2002).

Instead, each of ITV’s four channels is given its own colour and a set of characteristics which underpins the idents. ITV1 takes on a golden yellow and black identity and is underpinned by a proposition of ‘must-share TV’; it is bold, optimistic and confident, according to Salmon. ITV2, which she claims will exhibit the most controversial change, is presented in a green palette with idents based on excess: ‘too hot, too cool, too sexy’.

‘We have tried to identify a future-proof brand proposition, creating branding for each channel, targeting different groups and then cross-promoting into shows on other channels,’ says Salmon.

She commissioned a year-long research programme spanning 6000 people in consumer groups and 600 staff at ITV in an attempt to understand the entertainment needs of UK consumers over the next five years. Six segments of viewers were distilled from the findings, with attitudinal statements highlighting what they desire from entertainment media.

‘Everybody had an opinion on ITV, whether they loathed it or loved it,’ says Salmon. ‘But we also found that there is an eclipse effect, where people’s opinions are based exclusively on ITV1, or even just certain aspects of ITV1, which then eclipses the other channels.’

ITV will attempt to draw in viewers who are deterred by this perception by promoting its three additional channels to the different segments. ‘Once people are past the Rubicon of realising there might be something to watch on ITV, we can cross-promote to other channels,’ says Salmon.

Around a year in the making, the rebrand programme did not run according to Salmon’s original schedule. Hopes that the new look would air to coincide with ITV’s 50th anniversary in October were dashed. Instead, after rescheduling, ITV unveiled Red Bee Media’s identity for digital channel ITV4 at the end of October and postponed the launch of the full suite of branding until the New Year (DW 27 October 2005).

This moving deadline caused some consternation among Red Bee Media’s pitch competitors – Lambie-Nairn, English & Pockett, Dunning Eley Jones and incumbent Bruce Dunlop Associates – which made presentations and set fees based on the original schedule. It is understood that Red Bee Media’s £1m fee proposal undercut rival propositions of £3m by Lambie-Nairn and £1.5m by Dunning Eley Jones and Bruce Dunlop Associates, but this fee was subsequently raised when ITV decided to extend the development time.

‘It was a nice beacon to have the 50th anniversary in mind, but if it meant compromising on quality then it wasn’t the right thing to do. We also had a richer vein of programming to showcase in January. The decision to delay was made by us and had nothing to do with Red Bee Media,’ says Salmon.

ITV’s existing on-screen identity was created by Bruce Dunlop Associates in 2002. The ‘unified’ identity uses individual blocks and cubes to spell out ITV1, ITV2 and ITV3. Red Bee Media’s logos move away from this block device, but English & Pockett’s lower-case lettering remains.

‘It will be interesting to see how the new design works, as ITV tends to get dominated with junction flow and moving or retaining traffic [viewers] at these junctions,’ says Bruce Dunlop Associates managing director Honor Bartlett. ‘It compromises the beauty when you’re really working the junctions. You can’t really do beautiful burning bales of hay like Channel 4.’

According to Lambie-Nairn chief creative director Martin Lambie-Nairn, ITV needs to forge a combined strength across programming, branding and advertising. ‘Its existing identity is not helping one bit. It says we are not very creative or imaginative; we’re just a bit dull. It is absolutely right to want to change that. But the programmes must live up to this new positioning,’ he says.

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