It happens at the :20 point in an otherwise seemingly “normal” brand anthem spot. You’re watching a pleasant little tale about one woman’s life as she is born, grows up through the awkwardness of adolescence, and graduates college. It’s lilting, the voiceover is conversational (“And so begins the journey…”) and the moments captured in the condensed personal timeline are sweet and poignant.
It’s also shot entirely from the point of view of its protagonist, which somehow makes the violent car crash that comes out of nowhere 20 seconds in all the more shocking.
Of course there’s recovery, redemption and an uplifting ending. This is a promo heralding the January 15 debut of Discovery Life after all, a refresh of Discovery Fit & Health that’s intended to be an uplifting destination for shows about the human experience. The protagonist is rescued by a dashing EMT, whom she later marries. Fully recovered from the car crash that allowed her to meet her husband, she holds the tiny feet of their newborn in the closing moments. It’s a tender but familiar moment you’ve seen a million times, imbued with emotional heft. In barely a minute of screen time, you’ve been brought up to date on the woman’s entire life.
Developed by Discovery’s internal agency and executed by IKA, the promo “is one of the best spots that I have ever been a part of,” said Doug Seybert, SVP of marketing at Discovery Communications. “It’s meant to highlight the fact that life is unexpected and no matter what happens, it’s how you deal with it afterwards that matters. Our positioning for the network is really that life is messy, but life is beautiful.”
In addition to its narrative scope, the spot is technically savvy. The POV approach makes the woman anonymous yet universal, immersing the viewer in her story. She is us, in a sense, and we are her, and Discovery Life is not just telling stories about people – it’s telling our stories. Meanwhile, the presence of the bearded husband is a subtle visual indicator of the channel’s expansion from a female-skewing programming destination to something more gender-neutral with new shows like Body Bizarre and the provocatively titled 50 Ways to Kill Your Mother. As the anthem spot concludes, it pulls back from the couple’s now-toddler taking her first steps, our POV zooming out through the dot of the letter “I” as the new Discovery Life logo settles into frame in a merging of design form and function.
“We felt like the future of Discovery Life is represented in that spot,” said Matt Kendis, marketing creative director for Discovery Communications, who saw the dot on the I in the logo serving as both “a window into people’s lives” and representative of “the circle of life” that unfolds.
“I really wanted to develop a logo that was recognizable larger and smaller,” Kendis continued, which is why the DLIF logo employs a thicker font and uses a bold yellow and blue color palette. “We chose yellow because it’s fresh and sunny and bright… Across the cable landscape not a lot of people are using yellow, and blue was a natural color attachment that makes it pop better.. Those are fresh colors that signal the departure from the past, that are new and different.”
The elements of DLIF’s refresh reflect a programming slate that ranges from the bizarre real-life labor scenarios in Outrageous Births: Tales From the Crib to Hoarding: Behind Closed Doors, a psychological exploration of extreme hoarders and a quest for their cure. Changing the name from Discovery Fit and Health to Discovery Life, said Seybert, “gives us more flexibility to be able to continue on with that great medical and health programming but then also try some new things.” It also gave the marketing team “a great chance to do some concept stuff, to ask ourselves ‘what can we do that really stands apart creatively on our network and makes people go, ‘oh, that’s interesting.’”
In addition to the DLIF anthem spot, Seybert’s sentiment manifests most clearly in promos like the one below, for Outrageous Births. Here, artful camera work and a sneaky elevator-style music cue create a rug-pull reveal of a woman in the throes of one of the births in question. It’s another surprise, but a humorous and warm one. A voiceover narrator sums it all up with a nod to Discovery Life’s new positioning: “Expect the Unexpected.”