Promoting and Branding News Channels in a Turbulent Time


“Which Boris quote should we animate, because it might be out of date tomorrow?”

Recently we have been working with RTÉ, Ireland’s public service broadcaster, on a long running brand campaign for their exemplary News and Current Affairs services.

Our campaign idea in response to their brief was a constant reiteration of why, in an era of fake news, political bias on all sides of the print media, and social media opinion bubbles, the truth matters. Because the truth is hard, messy, often uncomfortable to hear. It takes persistence to root out, and courage to report. All the values of a great public service broadcasting organisation with impartiality as its watch word.

The campaign was also designed and templated to be reactive to events, so that when an undercover exposé of a chain of Dublin crèches, or a current affairs investigation in the mass slaughter of greyhounds comes to light we can respond with digital and social executions. 

But how reactive can you ever be in a news marketing context to the hourly rollercoaster that is Brexit? Any angle, quote or opinion can reflect on the broadcaster as if it’s out of touch within minutes. As the events of today proved squarely.

A couple of years ago, when writing a chapter on news marketing for our book on TV brands, we observed the arms race in news around who could claim to be “first with the news” most often. A Cardiff University report The Thirst to be First famously called into question the veracity of Sky News’ claim to be “First for Breaking News” after analyzing their rolling output versus competitors. Peter Horrocks, then the Head of BBC News 24, claimed the finding revealed the "First for Breaking News" line to be “nothing more than a marketing trick".  Indeed, within the walls of Broadcasting House, the joke used to run about their rival - “always first, often right”. The whole affair was a skirmish in the increasingly fractious battle between the rolling news channels, but it is interesting that Horrocks used the phrase "marketing" as a pejorative.

The impact of social media in particular has meant that claiming to be first these days seems particularly ineffective. Of course, speed of responsiveness is always going to be a bedrock for News - the clue is in the very title - but not at the expense of truth, of balance, of context.

As increasingly visually-literate viewers decode the semantics of News branding, we have also found in our design projects for News channels that the visual news language that grew up around “speed” and reactive delivery now feels cold, electronic, interruptive and superficial. So a move back towards warmth, depth and transparency should mark that audience quest for greater connection and veracity.  Those values will surely endure, whatever the quote, the soundbite, the “momentous events” of any given 24 hours.

Charlie Mawer, Executive Creative Director