Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Enter The Dragon - Idents in China

We just finished writing music for our fourth Chinese Channel identity - that fills me with a good feeling that potentially many millions of people will be exposed to something that Shriek has done. On the other hand I am unlikely to see any of our work going out on air, or anybody mention it whilst in the UK.....

All these jobs were done through Sandy Macmillan at Redbee China. Sandy is an old pro in branding who freelanced for the likes of English & Pockett and Lambie Nairn back in the 1990s. When the last recession hit he had the idea to move to Hong Kong for a bit to pick up work there, whilst the UK was in distress.

He never came back, and is now the creative director for Redbee China. I asked him to give me his opinion on the Chinese market - here it is:

Major TV channels in mainland China on the whole are much more inclined to use what their European counterparts might call an Image Promo to do the bulk of their on screen identity work. These 30 second promos act as a grand propaganda statement for the channel, and typically end in a gruff, passionate slogan voiced at the end with the channel logo resolve. Most look like Tourist Board commercials for their Province, and are made on lean budgets to mean deadlines.

The idea of using a family or library of edgy channel idents with tied-in OSP system has to date only been implemented by a few channels. I dare say some have full brand packages at their disposal sitting on a shelf somewhere; but the channel heads prefer to play out an ‘impressive’ 30 second promo once in a while in their schedule rather than have their presentation team (if such a team exists at all) battle it out with those in charge of advertising airtime about where and where an ident should appear, or a menu for that matter.

For many Chinese channels the top-of-screen corner Bugs do the identity work for the channels in the absence of idents and other presentation tools.
For many channels their ident is a quick 3d animation of their logo either seen on its own or tagged onto the end of one of those image promos. Logo animation of this sort is paid for by the second and handled by small animation companies working out of residential apartment blocks using pirate 3d software.

I have attended Promax/BDA Asia in Singapore several times now and sat through awards ceremonies where a promo piece picks up an award for best promo and then, rather strangely in my view, gets an award as best ident. So this approach to branding and view of broadcast design is not exclusive to China. Last year Red Bee London and our China office did the Presentation Graphics and Opening Title sequence for the Beijing Olympics on CCTV. The Opening Titles was seen frequently on 4 of the network’s 16 channels including their dedicated Olympics Channel which was watched by a billion+ viewers per day – but it was almost always played out like a TVC alongside Adidas and McDonalds commercials, and rarely placed before the opening to the live programme itself.

The channel was very proud of the work though – they even made a 30 minute ‘Making Of The Olympic Title Sequence’ programme which aired on their October National holiday.
People forget China is a developing country, and it is vast.

There is huge diversity amongst China’s 2000+ TV stations and clients’ experience, ambitions and expectations vary hugely. Some have onscreen presentation departments with promo teams and graphics teams, whilst others have nothing of the sort. Rarely will you find someone who is solely in charge of On Screen Presentation and in a position to make decisions or steer a re-brand project. The invisible Channel or Network Presidents do that.

China is very challenging and fast moving, and the success of a re-brand project for any design company will largely depend on whether the station has the presentation leadership, timescales and confidence in place to try out new approaches.

many thanks to Sandy for that - I recently heard that a large European and UK broadcaster is about to re-brand their channel along the same lines as Sandy mentioned. I will talk a bit more about that when it becomes public knowledge and have a look at what it means to the future of TV branding in Europe. As the months go on I hope to tease some other international experiences out of other companies who do a lot of international work. Meanwhile I'm off to finish off a couple of jobs for Deutsche Welle - (the German World service) but more on that another time......

1 comment:

bhavik said...

That is a very insightful post..please keep posting !