Specialties reach out to retune image

With so much choice on the airwaves today, channels are having to do more to differentiate themselves from the pack - whether through a complete brand makeover or by shuffling their program offerings to more effectively target their demos. Strategy offers a rundown of some recent TV transformations.

With so much choice on the airwaves today, channels are having to do more to differentiate themselves from the pack – whether through a complete brand makeover or by shuffling their program offerings to more effectively target their demos. Strategy offers a rundown of some recent TV transformations.

Vision TV: Beyond the God squad

Contrary to what many viewers may think, Vision TV is not just a religious station. That’s the message the 15-year-old Toronto-based national channel would like to convey in a recent rebranding effort which started in the spring of this year.

After examining share points and audience feedback, Vision realized it was in need of some changes. ‘We were convinced that Vision was a totally misunderstood brand,’ says Susan Mandryk, VP of communications and marketing for the channel. Mandryk says religion is but one aspect of the territory it covers, which also includes multiculturalism, ethical and moral issues.

Vision’s new on-air look, created by Toronto agency Front, includes a logo with a more three-dimensional look and increased use of the logo though programming segments, along with edgier promos. There is a new Web site.

Programming has been streamlined as well – much of the paid faith programming that was previously scattered throughout the day is now shown on weekday mornings and weekends so viewers have a better sense of what they’re going to see on the channel before they flick to the station.

Mandryk says Vision wants to continue targeting the 50-plus age group, but also skew younger, particularly with the 40-to-45 group. She says by showing movies and more themed programming packages, such as the ‘Bollywood Film Festival,’ the channel can deliver. Mandryk says it’s to early to gauge viewers’ overall reaction, but anecdotally, the response has been positive.

W Network: Doubling the fun

Since W Network rebranded itself last April, it has increased its audience by 500,000 viewers per week, and viewers in the 18-to-34 segment have more than doubled over the past year.

In research conducted by Toronto-based Solutions Research Group, viewers are saying they like what they see on the now Toronto-based national women’s channel, which began as WTN in 1995. ‘They’ve said [W network] seems stronger, that it looks nicer and seems more in-tune with what they’re looking for,’ says Susan Schaefer, VP of marketing for W Network’s owner, Corus Entertainment.

Strong performers in the fall lineup, which also went through a makeover, include a Thursday night design block, including Decorating Challenge, and a Sunday night drama block. Schaefer can’t say definitively how many advertisers have climbed aboard W since it refashioned itself, but says the overall outlook is positive, and their first quarter sales for this year were up 26% over last year.

‘Part of our objective is to convince advertisers W is the place to come if you want to reach women,’ says Schaefer. W is doing ongoing research – a brand tracking study and focus groups throughout the year are planned.

Schaefer says W is now concentrating on reinforcing its image as an entertaining, yet insightful station for women, both young and old. Radio spots and on-air promos, as well as television guide ads – and most recently, 1.3 million TV guide inserts – highlight their program offerings and new look. Toronto agency Zig created the radio and print advertising, while the Corus in-house creative team worked with Elaine Cantwell of L.A. agency spark to create the on-air look.

‘Our goal was to make it more fun and less earnest, but intelligent at the same time,’ says Schaefer. ‘Right now the demographic we’re going after is 25 to 54. We definitely skewed closer to 50 before rebranding. [Now, W is as] appealing to a 30-year-old as a 50-year-old.’

Family Channel: Teens up 150%

It used to be that Family Channel just wasn’t cool enough for kids.

‘We were becoming like vanilla,’ says Dominic Vivolo, SVP of marketing and sales for Family Channel and Astral Television. So this fall, the 14-year-old Toronto-based specialty undertook a branding campaign to up its energy level, with a little help from Toronto agency John St.

The agency came up with ‘Never a Dull Moment’ – an off-air campaign which includes talking recycling bins on school playgrounds and wrapped buses, along with print ads in mags like Kids Tribute.

Vivolo says the current process is actually a fine-tuning of Family’s 1999 relaunch – which included a logo revamp and change of on-air look. Family Channel recognized it couldn’t be all things to everyone, but decided it should go back to the pillars of what the channel is all about: family.

The message, that there’s never a dull moment with family life, resonated with kids, says Angus Tucker, a partner at John St. The agency conducted research with kids in major cities earlier this year and it found that the strategic ideas which most appealed to them were about the fun that can be had within the family.

The creative focuses on family high jinks – like grandma making a slam dunk while her grandson looks on. ‘It promised action in a real family-based way,’ says Tucker. The focus on family is particularly relevant to kids in the eight-to-12 range, he says, since they’re likely to still be at home more, as they aren’t yet really hanging out with their friends.

The outlook so far is good: in the first five weeks following the most recent campaign, viewership ratings in the age group of two- to 11-year-olds increased by 46% and in the teen group by 149% versus the same period between August and September of last year. And since the initial rebrand, Family has been the number-two Canadian television channel with kids aged two to 11.

Vivolo says the next phase of Family’s makeover will focus on strong programming blocks with a look towards high-end movies on the weekend and promotional tie-ins to reinforce the ‘Never a Dull Moment’ theme.