I just ( I say 'just' I this was actually 2 weeks ago, but, er I got like, sidetracked) got the Creative Review bulletin showcasing the new BBC Two idents. So I thought I'd set down some thoughts.Creative Review reports that: "It’s the first rebrand for the channel in 20 years, according to BBC Two Controller Patrick Holland is intended to “re-invigorate BBC Two” and reflect its “constantly eclectic” collection of documentary, drama and comedy."
I attach a series of the BBC2 idents created by the SuperUnion agency on YouTube.
Clearly BBC is always keen to demonstrate its relevance in a much more competitive climate – clearly it still has its public service remit to uphold. Clearly BBC Two clearly need to demonstrate that they remain innovative and experimental and to maintain the quality. The idents - gosh there are a bunch of them - over 20 of them, seem to signal different moods with different forms of art. They are visually arresting and intriguing. From the semiotic perspective I believe they've picked the right creative resources to do it. Plus because they do 5 things well.
1. SYMBOLIC MANIPULATION
Idents are ways for media channel brands – whether cinema or video production companies or TV channels - to demonstrate their editorial authority and command of digital technology through symbolic manipulation. Symbolic manipulation - whether used in Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies or in through branding animation, is about the project of power through technology and it is at a premium for channel brands.
Whether this is A Jazeera with a controlling calligraphic emblem or Russia Today showing us a clockwork interior inside its logo it is about demonstrating technological expertise, especially, agility, construction and SFX and demonstrating a striking point of view. This does work for the brand because it is a proxy for editorial authority and quality of channel programming. Motion graphics is a particularly resonant art form for branding. BBC 2 do it well through foregrounding the svelte curve of the 2 across the collection in a subtle way (more than classic Silk Cut ads) through a variety of vignettes that play with movement of various artistic media. Motion design is an inherently poetic form, in the semiotic sense of 'poetic' this means that it draws attention to and flaunts its formal qualities its evolving form language, just like a poem makes palpable sound world of words, their form, allusive and metaphorical resonances. Motion design, is literally a form of poetry in motion.
2. SUBVERTING VISUAL EQUITIES
The most confident brands tend to play with their visual equities – it shows a confidence and a munificence – we are so well known that we are happy to take a relaxed view of our own intellectual property, and like you, we believe that creativity and imagination are more important than corporate regulations – and you do too – Coke ribbon, Nike with their swoosh, and McDonalds with their trademark M have subverted or messed with their integrity. Even HSBC with their weird bow tie brand motif. We might call them 'metaforms', recognisable shapes or Gestalts that crystallise the brand essence in some way – BBC Two are not unprecedented here: Channel 4 with their shards in 2016, and more recently the new MTV brand identity rolled out globally which evokes human emotions and was responsive to crowdsourced CGC entries.
3. EXPERIENTIAL OVER REFERENTIAL
Brands are moving away from the conceptual to something more visceral and experiential. Eurostar and Renault have both very recently experimented with pure audio branding and ASMR recently. There is definitely something in the zeitgeist about this. The Visual ASMR trend that has been big online (particularly Instagram) for a while now, has spawned corporate versions -we can see below in these ads for Adidas, Kvadrat, and Baidu Raven H (see below) all using this medium for different creative purposes. And it has to be said the svelte sinuousness of the 2 motif fits this trend exceedingly well. Particularly the versions with the blobs that look like shiny blobs of lacquer bobbing around.
4. VISUAL WHIMSY AND WIT
This goes on to humour. Visual wit and playfulness is so important these days – used on packaging, merchandising, in tone of voice. Think of the brand language of a Pret a Manger (see image below). Shrewd humour does so many things – invites brand and content engagement, shows self-awareness and shades of self deprecation and softens corporate image. Whimsy is close to irony and for the BBC in particular this is vital in a world where it can be seen as an authoritarian, conventional monolith up against nimbler, more transgressive youth oriented rivals. The rebrand balances quirkiness and whimsy with gravitas an important balance to strike – it is less bubbly trivial than its predecessor.
5. CULTURAL CAPITAL
In tying in with artist animators of various types, including one of my favourites – David Batchelor – the channel is showing that they are alive to collaborations – and commissioning artists also shows confidence in the largesse of your brand. In this BBC2 follow so many premium and luxury fashion brands that tie up with artists to borrow their cultural capital in this case it probably benefits them more than the channel.
This is a nice look at cultural capital how Lenovo in this madcap Yoga ad skewer bullshit jobs and capture a random and 'meme-tastic' post internet art aesthetic.
The music (quirky) and use of art sequences (educational) seems to suffuse the work with seriousness – more art and design focused that belies the quirk – It is sort of BBC4 meets Tate Modern – but in doing so it creates more clear blue water between BBC 2 and BBC1, perhaps moving it closer to BBC4 but away from BBC3 and reasserting some of the mystery, danger and edge that BBC2 at its best is known for Channels are clearly struggling to reassert the value and relevance of their brand identity in a world where content sits across platform and content consumption is increasingly eclectic and omnivorous. I think BBC2 has done a pretty good job of it though, given the constraints.
I'm looking forward to their forthcoming collaboration with artist David Batchelor - who wrote one of my favourite books on visual culture, Chromophobia.
Summarising the above, it strikes me that BBC Two have essentially triangulated between their visual equities (previously a mischievious 2 shape) their strategic aim of being more distinctive and seizing on stuff out in the world likely to resonate. In this case visual trends around visual tactility, viscosity and ASMR. And the tone of voice is that of wit and whimsy with purpose – something very current and contemporary.
For anyone reading this that has an upstream brand identity question, FYI, semiotics specialises in looking at the glue between strategy (an abstract brand personality or positioning) and creative (how to bring this to life in communication) which is often where the brand idea gets lost in the process, or a victim to creative detours! This is a classic example of how you can see a coherent brand idea brought to fruition. My collaborator, Tilly Oswell-Wheeler suggests there is potential for semiotics thinking to help generate tighter briefs for motion designers too.
Right... that's 60 minutes of my life I'll never get back. Hope you found it a useful read.