NBC, through The NBC Agency--the network's in-house marketing agency--has turned down the volume, redesigning its prime-time network on-air look and softening its promo messages.
Starting this season, the NBC initials are displayed on screen in a lower case, modern-block style, and somewhat smaller than in previous years. The colorful peacock art--part of the company's longtime tradition--still remains a part of NBC's design.
"It's distinctive, and a lot more subtle," said Vince Manze, president and creative director of The NBC Agency. "We tried to underplay it." NBC's last redesign was several years ago.
Late last year, NBC felt kind of pressured. With ratings already sinking--the network heading for a low fourth-place finish--NBC looked to make one final push to gain on other networks. But it didn't work. "We were doing a lot of yelling," said Manze. "John Miller [chief marketing officer of NBC Universal TV Group] and I realized we needed to do something else."
Many network shows will use dramatic voiceovers that might say: "This is one episode you can't miss!" Or: "You won't believe what happens! For sitcoms, this could result in: "One of the funniest episodes ever!"
NBC is trying to offer a more realistic approach, although Manze says it will always look to heighten interest with vivid voiceovers for its promos. He believes the new NBC design--a kind of modern style--lets viewers know that NBC still represents "quality" for programming.
"We have always been creative leaders, and we wanted to go back to that," he said. "We feel that it fits, and we have been having a lot more fun doing it."
NBC also borrowed from its competitors a bit. NBC now concludes each of its program promos with NBC's logo, and perhaps a voiceover that says: "Only on NBC." This follows what ABC has been doing at the end of its promos--showing its logo with a voiceover touting ABC.
In looking at media strategy for its shows this season, NBC has picked up what all networks have done--especially ABC--in putting more and more media resources against fewer and fewer new shows. This year, NBC bet heavily on "My Name Is Earl"--a gamble that worked so far. It has become the number one rated comedy for any network.
"The big thing this year is to pick one or two winners, and not just launch it--but to support it through the year," said Manze.
For shows not picked, that means only one thing, say TV marketers--more complaints from TV producers, perhaps even louder than in previous years.