The highly anticipated PromaxBDA Africa 2013 Conference and Awards event, which
is devoted to on-air marketing and broadcast design, takes place on 22 November
at the Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg. This year’s theme is The Art of
Storytelling with inspiring local and international speakers who all have a story to
PromaxBDA Africa 2013 features some of the most fascinating international speakers
working in the creative industry today.
Lee Hunt is the founder of Lee Hunt LLC, a New York-based consultancy focusing on
brand strategy, on-air architecture, competitive analysis, and personnel training for
television networks and media companies.
Commenting on current trends in broadcast design for channel logos, branding and
station idents, Hunt says: “The standard five- or 10-second station ident has lost its
usefulness. In the early days of television they were primarily used for regulatory
identification. With the influence of MTV in the 1980s they became a way to
creatively express your channel’s brand personality and promises.
“But today, secondary events (logos and messages layered over content) have
taken over those roles, and those five or 10 seconds of air time have become much
too valuable to just be a branding element. Today, smart channels use that time for
programme promotion and make sure their spots do double duty – sell the show and
According to Hunt a good promo takes advantage of the unique qualities that
separate on-air promos from commercials. A really well-cut clip spot allows viewers
to sample or “try on’ the programme and get a good sense of what that show is all
about – commercials can’t do that; a promo speaks to a pre-disposed audience and
takes advantage of that knowledge.
“A good promo takes advantage of the power of proximity and recency,’ continues
Hunt. “Commercials want you to get up and go buy something. A promo wants you
to stay right where you are and not do anything – particularly not change the
channel! And we’re usually promoting an event that’s happening in the next few
minutes, hours or days – so we’re a point of purchase sell. Finally, we have the
advantage of talking to our audience 24 hours a day, seven days a week.’
He notes that no commercial campaign can do that. “To take advantage of this we
make sure all our promo messages speak in a consistent and trusted brand voice. But
overall, a good promo entertains, engages and sells.’
Hunt says that not writing and producing from the audience’s perspective are the
common mistakes promo makers make. “That’s difficult because a promo usually has
to target three different audiences: current viewers of the show; people who’ve
never seen the show; and viewers who sampled, but didn’t return.
“Creating a spot that engages all three audiences is hard, but often necessary to
make the promo effective, since most spots are placed “run of schedule’ (meaning
they show up everywhere on the channel.) Bottom line, think “what is the one hook
that will attract all three audiences?’’
Engaging the viewer
As promos have to stand out in the clutter of channels and programming with
viewers often engaging in second-screen experiences while watching programmes,
making a striking promo is more challenging.
“We’ve always had to compete with outside distractions, the phone ringing, a
conversation, a trip to the kitchen. At least with second-screen experiences most
viewers are staying in their seats and can still hear the television.
“Twenty percent of the time people watch TV and are not looking at the screen.
This makes sound design all the more important. If you can catch a viewer’s ear with
a strong piece of copy, sound bite, music selection or sound effect and get them to
look up at the screen, you have a much better chance of getting them involved in
In terms of promoting promos on social networks, Hunt remarks: “According to a
survey by the Hollywood Reporter – which talked to social network users between
the ages of 13 to 49, television lends itself to social-network multitasking more than
any other medium.
“The survey reveals that while watching TV, 83% of viewers surf the web on social
networking sites, 79% of social media users always or sometimes visit Facebook,
41% tweet about the show they’re watching, 76% of those who post about TV
shows do so while watching programmes live, and 51% post on social networking
sites while watching TV to feel connected to other viewers.’
Hunt concludes: “That’s very impressive. Even more impressive is the number of
conversations revolving around social media. And according to Trendrr the amount
of conversations have more than quadrupled in the last year.’
Sound is the key
Olivier Schaack is creative director of CANAL+ FRANCE and has worked in television
promos and design for 20 years. He has developed the Canal+ Promo and Design
Factory, which manages the on-air identity and on-air promotions for 29 pay TV
channels broadcast by the group.
Schaack says motion design with big, 3D letters and motion typography are still
dominating TV channel design but some channels are trying to get rid of this, such
as Channel4 which tries to innovate within its logo an in-perspective view system or
CANAL+ with real abstract elements (cf CANAL+ Series).
He believes it is definitely more challenging, and exciting, to make a striking promo
even more challenging with viewers often engaging in second-screen experiences.
“Sound is the key. Sound is the only way to capture people whose eyes are not
focused on the screen. Hook them with a strong sound and keep their attention with
a good story,’ he advises.
Linda Button is co-founder of Tooth+Nail, a boutique agency known for its unique
approach to brand personality, inspiration, and creativity.
“People are getting their entertainment in such personal ways,’ she comments. “My
kids, for example, are 12 and 20. The only time we actually turn on the television is
for sports. The rest of the time my kids find their favorite shows on Netflix, Hulu,
Amazon, YouTube and, since both kids are huge animation fans, on a host of genre
“So idents need to be simpler, more memorable, and tied to the personality of the
brand. Other than that, trends are for followers, not leaders.’
She says in the past a promo had to stand out. “Now, advertising and promotion
have to reach out. That’s where personality comes in. Finding the right personality
unleashes language, imagery, and consistency for your brand. It tells the audience –
we’re your kind of place. We understand you.’
Button mentions that the best promos have a simple, single message. “Not one
viewer in the history of television has ever recorded a promo to catch all the
graphics. The best we can hope for is to leave viewers with a strong feeling and – if
you’ve done your job well – a simple idea.’
Other speakers at PromaxBDA Africa 2013 are David Shing, AOL’s “Digital Prophet’,
Jihan Zencirli, Master Balloon Artist of Geronimo Balloons and Reemah Sakaan,
director of marketing and media planning at ITV Networks in the UK.
And then there is The Awesome Battle of Creatives in which three te
ams will go up against each other, live on stage, to show who can best interpret and
execute the impromptu theme, through design / animation / live action!