10 April 2014


By: Justin W. Sanders

At the Upfronts in Manhattan, the greatest barrier to successful branding may be the city itself.

“When you think of New York City and Manhattan… there’s just so much going on,” said Chris Martin, creative director of promotion for HGTV and DIY Network. “And people are moving a million miles an hour. You’ve got maybe 20 steps for someone to even glance at what you’ve got.”

To make a splash at this year’s Upfronts, HGTV and DIY Network sought to grab potential buyers’ attention before they even reached the venues, by plastering the walking areas leading up to them with posters advertising six key programs: HGTV’s “Love It or List It,” “Property Brothers” and “Rehab Addict, and DIY Network’s “Desperate Landscapes,” “Rev Run’s Renovation” and “The Vanilla Ice Project.

The shows selected were all highly character-driven, presenting “passionate people who know what they want and are good at what they do,” said Martin. The challenge was letting that passion cut through. “There’s so much depth and detail in every square foot of Manhattan,” said Martin, “if you go out with something that’s way too colorful or vibrant, in a way it almost gets lost there.

So Martin’s team, working with Ignition Creative, went in the opposite direction.

“Black and white is just kind of made for that environment,” Martin said, “and we loved what black and white did for our talent specifically. It gives a bit of drama and a bit of style to [content] that can be seen as just about the information.”

But while the black and white images were striking, there was a way to make them pop even harder: HGTV/DIY tasked Ignition Creative with producing extremely minimal copy for the campaign, etched across each poster in vibrant hues of yellow (DIY Network) and magenta (HGTV). The font for the words was custom-designed by Ignition, a handcrafted neon-stenciled typography that “literally looked as though a New Yorker had walked up and playfully graffitied over the image,” said Emmett James, VP of Ignition, and Chelsea Pearsall, senior account executive for Ignition, emailing in tandem.

“Everybody has an amazing font now,” said Martin, “and I said we have to have font that looks like this is the only place this font exists. That’s hard to do now because you’ve only got so many tools in the bag. Ignition came up with this idea that it’s been painted on the [plexiglass]. That someone came by and did this on top of [the images]. It really brought something very unique to what could have been just a sans-serif font.”

Of course, a great font is nothing without the language it expresses, a language Martin’s team looked to strip down to its barest elements. Inspired by social media platforms, where “there are a lot of mantras being thrown around, words to live by,” HGTV/DIY worked with Ignition to create copy that captured each show’s essence in the fewest words possible. “If you look at those platforms, the messages there are super succinct and boiled down to at times almost prideful statements,” said Martin. “For this creative we thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could do our version of prideful moments, and boil down what each of these talent represents.”

The resulting copy includes stripped-down yet meaningful phrases such as “2x the Fun” for “Property Brothers, which comments on the double impact of brothers while subtly alluding to construction terminology; and “Nice Nice Baby, which, explained James and Pearsall, lets “The Vanilla Ice Project’s” titular host “speak to the consumer in the character’s voice.”

Ultimately, Martin’s team and Ignition whittled the words down to a total of 24 characters across all six posters. (“That’s a sixth of a tweet,” said Martin. “That’s not a lot of copy.”) Wrapped in quote marks, each phrase “reinforces the idea that [a viewer might] say this about these shows or that the talent has said this about themselves,” said Martin, “or that someone online has said that about this show. These are real words and real phrases that really say something about what these shows are.”

That sense of the real is at the core of both networks’ evolving brand, a brand that values human connection over completing projects.
DIY is much more hands on, HGTV is much more inspirational, but both are about, ‘we can help you be the best you want to be,’” said Martin. “We want viewers to know and potential viewers to know that we have amazing talent that are opinionated, that are great at what they do, that offer great information, but at the same time do it with passion and personality. We’re not about things. We’re not about tools. We’re not about the couch we think you should buy. We’re not about the house we think you ought to flip. We’re about these people that do great things and that are happy to have you along for the ride.

“We don’t tell you how great we are. We show you what you can do.”

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