Leisure: Why BBC1 has swapped the world for a balloon

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The BBC is responding to the digital revolution - and devolution - by flying a hot air balloon across the United Kingdom. Rob Brown, Media Editor, says it is not as daft as it sounds.

Successful branding, the obsession of car makers and the marketers of other fast-moving consumer goods, is a trick television companies are fast struggling to learn as the multi- channel era ushers in unprecedented competition for audiences and advertisers.

The BBC is determined to more than match its commercial rivals on this front and ensure that its television and radio networks maintain a strong profile in a fast fragmenting media marketplace.

Which is why from 6am today viewers who tune into BBC 1 will, in between programmes, start to see a big bright red globe-shaped balloon floating above Eilean Donan Castle, Canary Wharf, Cardiff City Hall and seven other distinctive landscapes and cityscapes across the UK.

Unveiling the channel's brand-building new look at Television Centre yesterday. Alan Yentob, the BBC's director of television, conceded that the existing BBC 1 globe had never generated as much public affection as the wacky "2" logos.

"BBC 1 needs an identity which is more flexible and appealing," he said. "The globe has always been associated with the BBC's flagship channel and the choice of a balloon seemed to us an imaginative way of emphasising the universal appeal of this network. I do believe this is a memorable image which will allow the channel to embrace the whole of the UK."

Six of the ten initial "idents" were shot in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, confirming the corporation's desire to be seen to better serve the so-called "national-regions" - a desire which has clearly risen since the Scottish and Welsh devolution referendums.

Re-branding the BBC mainstream channel is costing just over pounds 500,000, but the new identity will be seen up to 10,000 times a year. The corporation aims to spend pounds 5.2m over the next three years on a new corporate image, reviving the elegant typeface created by the designer and sculptor Eric Gill in the 1930s.

The updated logo has been developed by the award-winning brand identity expert Martin Lambie-Nairn to work both on and off-screen. It will be emblazoned on everything connected with the corporation, from its office stationery and fleet of outside broadcast units to the listings in Radio Times.

Pam Masters, the BBC's Director of Broadcasting and Presentation, said: "At a time of unprecedented competition in broadcasting and the impending explosion of new digital and widescreen channels and services, the BBC has an ideal opportunity to reappraise its identity and, in particular, make it suitable for use on screen."