Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Interview: Adrian Bailey talks TV One rebrand and Eyeball/ModOp merger

When American cable channel TV One relaunched in early February, it did not just mark a shift in the channel's programming and position. It was also a sort of culmination in the merger between the two companies responsible for creating that new look. Those companies were branding agencies Eyeball and Modus Operandi, and the TV One rebrand was their first common project to be made public.

I caught up with Adrian Bailey, creative director from Modus Operandi, to talk about the TV One project and the ongoing merger.

The two agencies have somewhat different backgrounds. Eyeball is best known as a New York-based agency with a great track record in broadcast and motion design. A couple of years ago they also expanded across the country by opening new offices in Miami and Los Angeles. Modus Operandi (or ModOp) has a strong background in digital design. Adrian describes their skills and capabilities as highly complementary:

“The things we were individually pushing, such as doing more 360 integrated campaigns, were really made a reality after joining together. Our work and experience is a lot more robust and well-rounded now that we're working together.”

“We position ourself as a full-service 360 agency. The strengths that we really want to focus on are brand strategy and branding. I don't think we differentiate so much between broadcast and digital content and we're starting to see content as inherently multi-platform. Even working with TV One, rather than thinking of it as a purely broadcast package we from the beginning were thinking of how this lives in all kinds of different channels and potentially channels that will come in a couple of years that don't even exist yet.”

“Whereas five or ten years ago there were agencies that were purely digital, I think our focus and perspective now is that everything is digital so we wouldn't position ourself as inherently digital. Everything is digital by default, so I think when we start thinking about integrated campaigns, yes, there's print, there's out-of-home and there are other things like that we consider campaigns and engagements but we really take more of a 360 view of everything and that's constantly changing. I think were not as much defined by the actual medium and more of the needs of our clients and stepping up with creative solutions to whatever challenges they're facing.”

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TV One is a television network for an adult African-American audience with a mix of original content and reruns from the '70s and later. After establishing a relationship with Eyeball, the people at TV One were eager to make the rebrand happen within a fairly quick timeline. Adrian Bailey was brought in shortly after the relationship was established.

Eyeball/ModOp pitched three different proposals and then worked with TV One throughout the process. TV One would give feedback and call things out if they found something hard to work with.

The team started out by looking at the challenges faced by a relatively small independent channel like TV One and what challenges could arise from technological developments.

“Some of those [challenges] are just real world business challenges, like how do you license content and what content are you allowed to distribute through which channels. For a brand like TV One, some of the content they could only deliver through a traditional broadcast channel, some of the other content is original and new and they own it so they can distribute it through their website, through apps and through social. We had to be very mindful of that as it develops and strategically working with the client to anticipate as their content mix evolves, how does their ecosystem of apps and systems and channels evolve to deliver that content in the right way.”

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The new look marks a clear shift in tone for the network. The old graphics package was warm and orange and felt very friendly, almost timid. The new look shows a lot more confidence.

“It was clear working with TV One that they really wanted to be relevant and they really wanted to be more contemporary and I think that they're shifting in that direction in terms of the type of content that they develop and type of content they distribute. I would say that it was clear that if they wanted to be younger, more relevant and more contemporary then there had to be an initiative to take a bit of risk and to push the brand into a new place. As a rebranding, if we had come in with just another iteration of the previous logo and just updated it, I don't think it would have sent a clear signal that the brand was intentionally moving into a bolder direction so I think it made sense to really make a statement, push things forward and send a signal that the future of the brand is going to be a little more edgy and a little more contemporary.”

Eyeball had previously helped launch another 'African-American channel', Centric which was launched in 2009 by Viacom-owned BET, specifically to counter competition from TV One. Eyeball/ModOp were conscious about TV One's competitors and how the channel should define itself in relation to them, both through positioning and through design. They explored this by asking questions about whether the channel is an African-American channel, a black channel or something broader.

“Asking all of those questions helped us figure out which direction we wanted to go with the visual expression of that. Also being very mindful of really simple aesthetic choices of with their perceived competitors, whether it be BET or Centric or other competitors in the space. That was a lot of what drove the colour palette and going with a bolder bright yellow versus the safer orange tone and a lot of pink and purple that we saw from a lot of other brands in the space.”

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The new logo features the three letterforms stripped down to their fundamental components. The different elements can be taken apart and used as individual elements, but also joined together to form a whole.

“In a way that became a visual metaphor for the black experience, which was that there was a collection of different elements that were not all homogeneous but came together”, suggests Bailey. “On the surface each of the letters is just a combination of abstract shapes that are connected. When you actually take a second look they all form an actual word together.”

“There was an aesthetic choice of where does TV fit in all of this. It was interesting because in the previous logo it was like a superscript before the O and kinda tacked on there. We thought the three letters had a nice symmetrical balance to them and hanging 'TV' off the side sort of disrupted that. It also put a focus on TV. What does 'television' really mean once everything becomes streaming and everything merges and you get the content through your website, through your Apple TV or through your cable provider? TV just becomes and outdated idea in a way, so we felt that pulling it into the centre of the O and not giving it equal weight to 'One' made it integrated into the idea of One, as opposed to standing outside it as being a television brand.”

A challenge in creating a multiplatform brand is creating a coherent message and look, but still consider the limitations and possibilities in each medium:

“From the beginning, the idea of energetic stop motion felt like the only way to go with this logo and this aesthetic direction. That drove a lot of the motion package we put together. [As for the website] I think it's important that the website looks like a part of the larger branding package, but also is its own channel. You always have to balance consistency as part of a larger brand package versus not copying and pasting and having the exact same thing everywhere, which just becomes fatiguing and boring from a consumers' point of view.”

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