MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; Media owners fail to understand the branding question

Entirely in the course of duty you understand (it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it etc), I spent many hours last week in various darkened auditoria in Cannes sleeping through... er, I mean watching... ads from around the world.

Entirely in the course of duty you understand (it’s a dirty job, but

someone’s gotta do it etc), I spent many hours last week in various

darkened auditoria in Cannes sleeping through... er, I mean watching...

ads from around the world.



As luck would have it, the first category I stumbled on was that for

media owners. And what a dull, derivative and uninspiring lot of ads

they were. You would think, would you not, that advertising for a TV

station, newspaper or magazine gives you a head start? After all, the

subject matter is a lot sexier than, say, petfood or household goods.

Wrong.



Almost without exception, TV news stations - even rivals from the same

country - used the same idea: lots of stock footage of cataclysmic

events - the Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the siege of the

Russian Parliament, Tiananmen Square, you know the kind of thing -

followed by a dirty great big logo. Some of them even used the same

stock footage, which would suggest that if you’ve seen one TV news

station, you’ve seen them all.



Newspapers weren’t much better either, and I saw more than one rip-off

of the famous Guardian skinhead/businessman ad. (Still, I suppose it’s

better than the infamous Danish newspaper ad I saw once at Cannes in

which two men make love on a kitchen table - a sort of gay version of

that scene from the Postman Always Rings Twice. I could be wrong, but I

think the ad was supposed to show what a liberal attitude the newspaper

had.)



Back home, meanwhile, Pearl and Dean is revamping its signature ‘pow pow

papow papow’ theme tune and the al-Fayeds and London News Radio are

arguing about who owns the right to the LBC name. And what’s it all

about? Branding, of course, and that ability to achieve an instant

recognition factor. Pearl and Dean has got it spectacularly right with

an instantly memorable jingle that is part of popular culture and

somewhere along the line LNR has got it spectacularly wrong. But then,

given LNR/LBC’s up-and-down history over the past 20 years, are we

surprised?



The lesson for media owners surely must be to find an instantly

memorable and original mechanic and stick with it through thick and

thin. It needn’t be complicated; in fact, the simpler the better. Me, I

think it’s all in the sound and the tone. Most of the great media

successes of the past 20 or 30 years have done this, from the early Sun

TV advertising in the 70s to the current whizzy News of the World

campaign.



In radio, it ought to be even easier - listen to the jingle and the way

everybody on Capital FM pronounces it ‘eff emm’. But can anybody

remember the LBC jingle? Did it even have one? For a radio station that

is staking its future on its ability to reclaim its heritage, bringing

back the jingle would be a logical move - or at least it would if it had

one.



Therefore, as we speak, I am composing a five-note jingle based on

retuning white noise for Channel 5.



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