[Images and video courtesy of Monarchy.tv.]
Magic is ultimately an experience of illusion and deception, and modern viewers have little time for either. It’s the content we crave in the on-demand television universe, and the shrouds of on-air graphics that tend to swirl around linear broadcast like a sorcerer’s cloak have become increasingly irrelevant. “People no longer care about fairy dust and sparkles and that kind of magic,” said Nicci Hattingh, executive creative director at the Johannesburg-based agency Monarchy, which recently completed a brand refresh of the general entertainment channel M-Net.
Established in the ‘80s, M-Net was South Africa’s first pay-TV network, and has always lived up to its tagline, “Where the magic is,” through a premium blend of international shows and films as well as local content. But the new refresh streamlines the reveal, peeling back the tricks and sleight-of-hand to get more efficiently to what’s truly enchanting. M-Net viewers, said Hattingh, “Needed to be reminded about the beauty in real life, and where you can find moments of magic in real life.”
Arriving in the ‘80s, M-Net was South Africa’s first pay-TV network, and has since branched out into many different outlets, including not one, not two… but eight different genre-specific movie channels.
“They have such great content, but they started losing the hook as to why you should be watching in the first place,” Hattingh said. “With all the new extra channels they created, they gave themselves so much competition, they started losing viewers.” Compounding the brand dilution, M-Net had become rather “clinical,” she continued, more about “driving information” than driving a strong emotional connection with its stellar programming.
The M-Net brand so well-established, “it’s almost part of our heritage,” said Hattingh, which meant the logo and tagline had to remain unaltered. To pump some feeling into it, Monarchy elected to “embrace the ‘ribbon-ness,’” she continued, expanding on its design potential as a way “take you into this wonderful place where you can escape.” They brought a glassy quality to its edges while simultaneously making it “more cloth-like” so that it pops more sharply on screen while also feeling softer and more malleable. The ribbon’s shape and texture fluctuate, sometimes seeming almost fluid, breaking off into shimmering pieces that seem to swim like sea creatures. Other times, “we even go inside the ribbon to bring almost a kind of electric feeling,” said Hattingh, “like you’re going into this tunnel with lights going past you.”
Monarchy also used the ribbon as an avenue for color palette expansion. While the main M-Net ribbon remains blue, the brand system allows for vibrant hue changes to floating ribbons such as pink, lemon and green, all balanced by a modern tonality.
Pumping up the concept of magical real-life moments, the new brand elements extend out into the physical world through a series of live-action idents. One depicts a woman floating in a hot air balloon; another, a guy jumping off a cliff into a scenic waterfall. A third, particularly cinematic spot tells an entire story as a little boy labors over paper boats, finally floating one even though a storm has set in. The message is surprisingly subtle for a TV brand—that M-Net is there for you even during life’s tougher moments. “Even if it’s a rainstorm, there can be magical moments,” said Hattingh.
Logo manipulations and promos aside, the most revolutionary change embedded in the M-Net refresh may be the streamlining of its information. “With channel branding, because people DVR, etc., they don’t really care about the stuff in the middle anymore,” said Hattingh, “so we essentially tried to take it all out but still have channel presence in the IPI and show footage.” Rather than follow the traditional pattern of, say, a 10-second or 5-second ident, or a bumper leading into or out of a show, Monarchy has merged those elements with the show itself.” Make no mistake—they are “still there,” Hattingh said, “but as a layer over what you’re watching, so you don’t lose program time.” The layer is elegant and unobtrusive, smoothly overlaying the present content with the necessary information displayed in a glass-panel form, because glass is evocative of the slightly sleeker logo, and “because glass is very transparent, so it would sit there and not bother you,” said Hattingh.
Still, worry about viewer reservations over the new information system was potent enough that M-Net and Monarchy took the unusual step of including an introductory, surprisingly lengthy information video with the refresh, which ran repeatedly throughout the first month or two of its launch. “If you inform viewers properly they can prepare themselves,” Hattingh said. “Here, people need to know it’s going to happen, so the video explained, ‘this is to make your experience better and enhance your viewing pleasure.’ And no one complained about it and it’s working very well.”
EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Nicci Hattingh
DIRECTOR: Delarey Hattingh
LEAD DESIGNER: Nicci Hattingh
PROMO DESIGNER: Juanita Strachan / Zwelethu Gamede
PRODUCER: Nicci Hattingh / Nadene Booth
SHOOT COORDINATOR: Nadene Booth
LOCATION SCOUT: Nadene Booth
D.O.P: Delarey Hattingh
Q.C: Joanne Calteaux
3D ARTIST/ANIMATOR: Gavin Geoffreys
2D ARTIST/ANIMATOR: Tristan Winslow / Renzo Rader / Pascal Martin
HEAD OF EDITING: Jean-Yves Martin
SENIOR EDITOR: Carla Pels
STYLIST: Luarnae Roos
AUDIO ENGINEER: 344 Studios - Sudhir Mizra
FINAL MIX: Audio Militia
PROJECT MANAGEMENT: Joanne Calteaux / Nicci Hattingh