The cable industry lacked a public image, was very confusing and needed
to change, Meg Carter says
It seemed an impossible brief - create a brand from scratch for three
products in one; television, telephony and new media. But nothing about
the cable industry has ever been straightforward.
The industry is large and fragmented, comprising around a dozen players
whose recent history is coloured by disagreement and rivalry. Having
invested pounds 5.5 billion in building the UK’s cable infrastructure,
but with cable penetration rates lower than some in the City had hoped,
a concerted marketing strategy was overdue.
The solution was ‘get connected’ - an integrated campaign designed both
to launch a generic corporate identity and educate a misinformed and
The industry’s trade body, the Cable Communications Association, first
drafted plans for a generic campaign in January 1995.
Almost all of the main cable operators agreed to contribute money
according to their respective size, based on subscriber numbers.
J. Walter Thompson won the pounds 12 million account last summer.
An integrated approach was a prerequisite, Stephen Carter, the managing
director of JWT, says. The campaign had to work on many levels. It had a
number of different aims: to launch a generic brand identity, to
reposition the industry and raise awareness, to inform and educate. And
it had to be aimed at the cable companies’ employees as well as
‘The process started, rightly, with a debate on positioning,’ Carter
comments. ‘Was cable about multi-channel TV, or cheap telephones, or was
it about badly laid infrastructure and damage to domestic property?’
Cable is a delivery mechanism, and should be positioned as such, they
decided. But what should it be called? A mythical name - like Sky -
which could distance the industry from the negatives associated with
digging holes in the ground? Or a neutral name, Orange for example,
which could engender its own new range of connotations and emotions?
JWT’s cable team worked closely with its WPP sister company, Sampson
Tyrell, the design and corporate identity specialist. They agreed that
the overriding principle should be clarity and context.
‘The simple descriptor Cable was the right name,’ Carter explains. There
was already enough confusion among consumers. Qualitative research
revealed deep-seated ignorance and confusion, even among cable
subscribers. Many did not understand the difference between cable and
satellite delivery. Others did not know that cable telephone services
connect with BT’s network.
Sampson Tyrell created a corporate identity based on interlocking
shapes, chosen for simplicity rather than as a cryptic visual reference
to ‘connectivity’. The design would be used across all generic
advertising and marketing materials as well as in all participating
companies’ communications, so had to fit neatly alongside existing
corporate logos. ‘The idea was to use it as a stamp of endorsement,
rather like the Visa or Mastercard sign,’ the CCA marketing director,
Mike Hayes, says.
Meanwhile, JWT developed a range of above- and below-the-line
initiatives to launch the new look. The comedienne, Dawn French, was
chosen to front a series of TV ads: 60-second executions focused on
cable as the single connection needed for every educational,
entertainment and information need. Others focused on specific product
benefits, such as cable telephone lines, multi-channel viewing choice
and new media.
Poster and press work did not feature French, but did continue the ‘get
connected’ theme. These ads contained more specific product detail -
offering not just hard facts but context and reassurance. Radio
commercials were used in a similar way, although the use of local
stations enabled individual cable operators to insert their own, local,
telephone number at the end of each ad.
Rebranding extended to all promotional material - such as the
information packs and sales literature used by local cable companies,
even merchandise such as baseball hats, T-shirts and badges. The aim: to
create a united profile at the same time as imparting specific product
and local company information.
A direct response mechanism was also worked into the campaign.
Meanwhile, the CCA’s embryonic Internet site was redesigned.
The finished campaign and corporate identity was introduced to local
cable operators and their employees at 100 industry presentations during
March. An industry party followed. The first advertising broke on 29
March and subsequent activities are enjoying a phased roll-out, through
Joint promotions with the Daily Mirror and the Daily Telegraph broke in
recent weeks. The cable logo was also displayed prominently in the TV
listings page of the Independent. Further waves will follow in coming
months through joint initiatives with programme providers and local
campaigns. A co-promotion with the film channel, TNT, breaks this month
with two posters promoting TNT films and featuring the ‘get connected’
Initial responses from the industry are positive. For such a complex
brief, the tone of voice remains consistent across a broad range of
materials and, for the first time, the cable industry has been
positioned as a single whole.
However, its long-term effectiveness is by no means guaranteed. Success
will depend on whether individual companies can meet consumers’ raised
expectations and whether they can continue to co-operate and put past
internecine grievances aside.