New ITV channels bring calls for unified rebrand

Two new digital channels and more advertiser-led programming have been scheduled this week by ITV boss Charles Allen. The move follows the Carlton-Granada merger, but many designers are clamouring for a total revamp of the brand.

ITV3 will target an ABC1 audience with upmarket dramas and documentaries. ITV Kids is also being launched, possibly as a joint venture. No timetables have yet been made public for these channels going on air and ITV sources say it is too early to talk about pitches for identity work.

However, broadcast design experts maintain the Carlton-Granada tie-up, which takes effect in February, presents a once-in-a-lifetime chance for ITV to switch on the right messaging.

‘If it wants to keep its presence in the marketplace [in the face of] increased competition from multi-channel providers, a complete rebranding is absolutely necessary,’ says Kemistry creative director Graham McCallum.

‘It’s the moment to do it. This is the most significant development in ITV’s history,’ he explains. ‘For the first time, ITV has one strong, unified brand. Previously, the channel has always been a bit of a nightmare in branding terms, where everyone [from the regional companies] had their own little say, but finally it has a single ITV.’

Venturethree partner Philip Orwell adds, ‘ITV has traditionally been the third button and it’s currently behind the BBC and Sky [for audience]. If it wants to convince people this is not its natural position then nothing less than a fundamental rethink will shift perceptions.’

Lambie-Nairn creative director Martin Lambie-Nairn is more cautious about the way forward. ‘Clearly, it is an opportunity to rebrand. One way of showing there’s a new idea and persuading advertisers and audiences to reassess [the channel] is to rebrand,’ he says.

But he wonders whether ITV has sufficient funds for a major change, pointing out how it has ‘always proceeded on the basis that it was working towards one company with [many] sub-brands’.

Lambie-Nairn adds, ‘All the theory’s right. [But] only time will tell whether advertisers will increase their advertising.’

Bruce Dunlop & Associates is responsible for ITV’s current on-air image and is working on its 24-hour news channel, due this spring (DW 24 October 2002). Martin Poole, the group’s director of sales and marketing, thinks it ‘extremely unlikely’ that ITV will radically change its brand.

‘[Given how recently] this look was deployed, I would be surprised if they overturned that level of investment so quickly. It’s not just a positioning, a lot of it’s a nuts and bolts package to get the furniture to work on screen.’

Poole says ITV marketing director Jim Hynter has ‘brought a focus to what ITV is about, starting with the main channel and then ITV2’. He believes Hynter is unlikely to want to jettison such ‘portfolio thinking [now] there’s a clear understanding of how the channels relate to each other’.

Orwell is unconvinced though. ‘What’s been done has been valuable in building one brand,’ he says. ‘But what it stands for hasn’t been fully elaborated, particularly if ITV wants to be thoroughly competitive with the market leaders.’

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