Forget idents: promos should rely on the talent

TV channnel identities and station promos need to be really in tune to win viewers, says Bruce Dunlop

To some, branding is firmly in the "bullshit baffles brains" category of life, something that entrepreneurs use to dress up mediocrity so that people will buy it. Just ask Gerald Ratner. It's only in recent years that businesses have begun to talk more about the value of brands and to realise that consumers will spend more on brands that can be trusted. Consequently, brand value can be a real asset to the company balance sheet.

To some, branding is firmly in the "bullshit baffles brains" category of life, something that entrepreneurs use to dress up mediocrity so that people will buy it. Just ask Gerald Ratner. It's only in recent years that businesses have begun to talk more about the value of brands and to realise that consumers will spend more on brands that can be trusted. Consequently, brand value can be a real asset to the company balance sheet.

I would argue that branding cannot ever be about pulling the wool over people's eyes, and that the best branding always favours the facts. We know this very well in television - you can't afford to over-promise on a channel or programme brand or promotion, otherwise the viewers will lose faith in you and turn to someone else. Sam Chisholm, the former Sky boss, said that he could look at a channel for an hour and tell you how well it was managed: try it, it's not that difficult.

I was at Sky in the 1990s and we had to make a virtue of no original programming and lots of cheap American imports, so we developed a hard-hitting policy about promotion. Being an Australian, I was very used to the American style of competitive programming, competitive promotion and branding that was going to get you where you wanted to go (being taken seriously in Sky's case). This was our point of difference to the relaxed and complacent style of British broadcasters; the war had begun.

I had the job of promoting the first ever pay-per-view sporting event in the UK - Frank Bruno vs Mike Tyson. We had a real problem here - we had to convince UK viewers to pay to stay up into the early hours of the morning to watch a boxing match that was a foregone conclusion. So we concentrated our efforts on the hopes and dreams of boxing fans all over the UK that Bruno could do what no one else in the world had been able to. By the time the match was on air we'd persuaded 600,000 subscribers that Tyson was about to meet his nemesis, making it still one of the biggest, one-off pay-per-view events in UK television history.

That's what great branding can do - help your audience believe in your product, even if they know it's not as great as it should be. For the record, Frank went down bravely in three.

There's a lot of debate in TV about which is most important, the channel brand or the programme. Is Channel 4 more important than Big Brother, especially now it splits coverage with its little sibling, E4? That's why I believe the way forward for TV branding is to feature content within the branding, a seamless marriage of spin and truth.

You can't get more honest about your brand than putting your product at the heart of your communication, that way consumers know exactly what they're getting. We've been doing this for years in TV and we call them promos, carefully crafted 30-second spots for Law & Order that finish with a tag telling us it's on Hallmark on Friday at 10pm. It's content used to sell the channel, and the channel clearly signposted as the place to find the content.

One of the best TV branding examples in recent times was the balloon over Britain idents, the wonderful images the BBC used to evoke British pride and by association pride in the BBC. The demise of this particular branding device illustrates one of my key branding theories - the "KISS" principal, "Keep It Simple Stupid". When the balloon was simple it worked, when it got complicated, by trying to introduce ethnic imagery, ie the Notting Hill Carnival, the balloon became secondary, the idea became complex and the idents lost their charm, and consequently their value. More recently, the new Channel 4 identity is much talked about because it's new and it's different, two key elements in branding, but technical wizardry doesn't necessarily sell, and I'm not convinced that the idents reflect the core values of the channel.

More impressive, perhaps, is the E4 branding which takes a stand through it's absurdity; a band of 1970s musicians who show just how incredibly flexible TV branding can be and, what's more impressive, is that the tone of voice set by the idents is carried through every piece of on-air communication. All the purple pieces fit together to give the viewers a clear idea of the character of E4, and that is good branding.

Remember that branding reflects the programming; it doesn't work the other way around. Today the Five rebrand is beautifully simple, reflecting tiny slices of life we can all relate to, and while I'm impressed that Five recently got a huge shark to physically chew up its logo off the coast of South Africa, this may be the first step that takes them out of their clearly defined space and back a few steps into the "adventure programme... adventure ident" scenario.

I won't dwell on ITV, as we created their current identity, but this branding means business. It's what we've called "Grafting", replacing the time spent on spinning idents with short programme snippets, designed to excite viewers about what's up next, and to me that works in a 400-channel environment. ITV2 is another great example of the channel identity and station promos working together to create a totally focused brand. We've done the same with our own channel, Real Estate TV, which does what it says on the tin - as most TV brands need to these days.

Meanwhile, Sky One has opted for pretty pictures on air rather than anything that could have got to the roots of their brand; a new haircut when what they needed was brain surgery.

The current Nip/Tuck posters are evocative, eye-catching and have an attitude that puts them up there with the best; they need this same attitude running through their brand from top to bottom. Sky One vacated the space it created and dominated in the early days with Ibiza Uncovered and a tits-and-bums Sun mentality which it pioneered, and has now plunged into the crowded "legitimate" market, sacrificing what it had to be the Johnny-come-lately of mainstream television.

It was a serious clash over branding that caused me to leave Sky, because it thought lots of individual brands would be more effective than a single umbrella brand, and Sky spent record amounts branding each channel using an American design agency. Fortunately Sky is back to popular thinking and the current glass Sky logo is the new umbrella brand.

Good branding is the light that guides us, the glue that unites us, the flag that represents us and an attitude that makes us unique. But most of all it should express essential truths about us. Get it right in any business and the bums on the seats will belong to punters who believe in you as much as they believe in your product. That's the truth about branding.

Suggested Topics
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Graduate Consultant - Sales Recruitment - £35k ote

£18000 - £25000 per annum + £35k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: Looking for your first s...

Recruitment Genius: Advertising Media Sales - Print, Online & Mobile

£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing house has been ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Award winning Peterborough base...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?