On the 23 July, the very day Northern & Shell boss Desmond bought the channel, he promised – live on air – to make Five ’huge’ by buying in shows such as X Factor and Big Brother. His hands-on approach also resulted in the launch of an ad campaign at a reported cost of £20m last week, indicating that, beyond content, marketing is a major priority for Desmond.
While things are moving apace, there is no timetable for the rebrand and no decision has yet been made on whether it would be handled in-house or by a consultancy. ’The station is now being referred to as Channel Five colloquially within the station, but the new management needs to spend several weeks getting to know the company,’ says Sholl.
Motion graphics group Lambie-Nairn’s chief executive Christian Schroeder believes that Desmond’s appointment is a positive development. ’The perception of the Five brand is perhaps a little confused, but Desmond has the track record to show that he can be single-minded in his approach to branding and communication,’ says Schroeder. ’He is aiming high with his sights set on Channel 4, Sky and ITV, but he has proven in the past that he can successfully bring populist content to market.’
Dunning Penney Jones partner Liz Dunning concurs that Desmond has implemented a muscular takeover, but warns against ’change for change’s sake’, which she believes could be indicated by his reinstating ’channel’ in the title.
’Desmond will want to make his mark and make change visible, but how is adding the word “channel” to the name going to enhance the brand?’ she says. It was dropped from the name in 2002 after a major rebrand intended to give the channel more creative scope and allow it to insert more humour and wit into its identity.
In 2009, Dixon Baxi gave the broadcaster its current look and feel, winning a Design Week Award for its branding and kit of parts for Five, which included 20 idents by commercials makers and directors from the around the world, including Aardman Animations, Rokkit and Partizan.
’Compared to BBC One’s swimming hippos or Channel 4’s pylons, Dixon Baxi’s branding is cheap as chips, but it is extremely clever and creative as well as cost-efficient,’ says Dunning.
It may be regrettable that Five’s highly praised and relatively new branding is set to bite the dust, but Desmond’s dynamic ambitions for the channel are likely to take it out of sync with the current design scheme.
His strategy involves reigniting the station’s recently cancelled relationship with Project Canvas, a cross-channel initiative that will see BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and now Five uploading content to an open, Internet-connected TV platform.
Dunning suggests that if the channel is to become involved in ’non-linear TV projects such as Canvas, there could be advantages in being driven by a single core brand, Channel Five, and delineating Five USA and Fiver in a different way’. She adds, ’This rebrand is an opportunity for a channel that has been dogged by uncertainty and rumour for years to make a really bold and confident statement.’
- Five has no formal design roster, but has worked with Dixon Baxi, Addictive TV and Spin
- The broadcaster’s in-house graphic design department deals with on-air look and feel and some print-based promotional activity
- An upcoming rebrand could be handled in-house or by an external group, and may ’contain the essence of the current look or be completely different’, says Five’s head of strategic communications Andrew Sholl
- New owner Richard Desmond will spend the next few weeks getting to know the company before a decision is made about rebranding