by Quinn

There are many things to be concerned about in the world today; Tony Blair’s relentless populist wheezes that repeatedly strike away at our historic freedoms, the continued nuclear brinkmanship over Iran, the fact that according to the tabloids (and who can doubt them) every potential teacher is a paedophile, or every teacher is potential paedophile, or something.

But one thing that has really frustrated me since the launch of ITV4 in November has been the way that their logo hasn’t fitted in with the image of the other three existing ITV channels. I know it shouldn’t, but it really has been bothering me, and led to a few sleepless nights I can tell you.

I needn’t have worried of course, someone was on the case, and yesterday we saw the fruits of their efforts, the new “idents” for the whole portfolio of ITV channels. And very nice they are too; I’m not knocking them. They are certainly not the sort of thing you can rattle off in half an hour, although personally, were I tasked with the job of designing the new logos I would be a bit fed up if I’d got bogged down with them for more than an afternoon. It would take me a short while to select the neatest font, a bit longer to pick the most appealing colours, but that would be about it.

ITV didn’t ask me if I could redesign the logos though, which is their loss, as by the looks of it I would have saved them a small fortune. ITV’s new identity, needless to say, is the result of a dreaded project, in this case one entitled Brand 2010 according to this press release. Rather than just employ me for half a day, the Brand 2010 “team” were augmented by M&C Saatchi, WPPMindShare and Red Bee (formally BBC Broadcast). I have no idea how many people must have been involved in this project, but it sounds like a lot. I also don’t know how long this project lasted, but I suspect it took a significant amount of time. The name Brand 2010 alone won’t have sprung up overnight, it will have been developed and debated over numerous jugs of coffee and plates of biscuits in a meeting room where “I think we can all knock off early today and resume tomorrow?” And as with most projects of this kind, rather than shamefully admit just how much time and money has been wasted on a largely trivial project, the order of the day is to boast of the same, to justify the hours worked on the whole pointless exercise, to detail the exact extent of their corporate faffing about; so we know from the press release that Brand 2010 was “a comprehensive and wide-reaching project” (rather than just involving me and some magic markers), involved “6000 viewers” and “company wide workshops with staff” (who I would imagine decided that the new logos are “alright, really, yeah”) thanks to which we now know the “personality” of each ITV channel (I confess, had I been given the job, I wouldn’t have thought about investigating each channel’s individual personality; which is probably why I wasn’t asked).

And what are these personalities? Well you probably didn’t know until now, but ITV1 “ captures a range of human emotions and viewers feel connected as a result”. The “ITV1 logo opens out at the start of each ident to encapsulate the emotion in each scene”, “this logo device is also taken through into the on-screen design elements for the channel in a bold and clear design that ensures that the programming shines as hero”. The programmer as hero, eh? In contrast, “ITV2 programming has an addictive quality to it – you just can’t help watching it!” (their exclamation mark!) Yes, “this channel is centred on fun, excess, and general over-the-topness – too much of everything. It’s a journey through a visually rich, vibrant and stylish ITV2 environment.” ITV3’s idents are a “visual links between an object and its environment from with the viewer can interpret their own story” while ITV4 “is based around ‘the collision of opposites’”. So if you thought ITV3 was just where thay repeated classic drama, and ITV2 was for shit chat shows and repeats of the soaps, you are a fool.

It would be unfair to single ITV out for this idiocy, every large organisation indulges in the same thing (although I find few press releases as unintentionally hilarious), and if it keeps some people gainfully employed and out of trouble while they strive to justify their existence and spin their projects out for all they’re worth then what do I care. I’d take one of these jobs if they were going, they sound like a right doss, and I can talk shite with the best of them, as this blog regularly proves. It is also only fair to draw a distinction between those behind the technical work involved in creating and producing the actual idents themselves (which are quite beautifully filmed and must be the result of genuine hard work by people far more intelligent and talented than myself) and those responsible for the pretentious and meaningless rubbish I have outlined above. Re-branding can work, of course – one instantly thinks of Levi’s, or Tango – and if Brand 2010 does increase ITV’s profits then all well and good; but if it fails that won’t put them off going through exactly the same rigmarole next time. Indeed if this particular re-branding does fail it will just bring forward the date of the next re-brand. Anyone free for Brand 2015?

I can see why the consultants and agencies directly involved in these projects act as they do, but why are the client companies’ complicit in this palaver? Think how much money they could save if the whole industry was organised on a piecework basis, if you got paid for the swiftness and volume of re-brands you did. It would involve a fraction of the time and expense currently incurred, but would there be any real loss of quality?

Meanwhile, in government, Gordon Brown is showing that he too can engage in total and utter bollocks. In his speech to the Fabian Society at the weekend (link via) discussing his ideas on “Britishness” he lamented the fact that “unlike America and many other countries, we have no constitutional statement or declaration enshrining our objectives as a country; no mission statement defining purpose; and no explicitly stated vision of our future.”

Perhaps it is just me, but on the occasions when I hear an American talking about how the United States is not only a nation but also a cause I am unable to stifle a world weary groan; the only thing that lightens my gloom is the fact that in Britain we tend to avoid going in for this guff. Now Brown wants to change all that. Ta.

And as for a “mission statement”, is there anyone who thinks they are anything other than a complete waste of time – other than those who commission them, and, it seems, our Prime Minister elect? It is often said that government should try to emulate the private sector, and there may well be a good case for such a policy; but must they always seek to ape its worst excesses, its Brand 2010 type toss, rather than implement those elements of business that serve a useful purpose and which we actually benefit from?