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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Extras
indybest
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
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

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Display Account Manager

£25,000 to £35,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: The Company Our client are th...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Director

£80 – 120K : Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Director – Ad tech - £80 – 120K...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum