When a nation grapples with great tragedy, so do its go-to media outlets grapple with how to carry on. This is especially true in Europe, where public service and national broadcasters “tend to get viewed in a naturally quite patrician way because they’ve got to appeal to such a broad demographic,” said Charlie Mawer, executive creative director for the Red Bee creative agency. “They are the place that the nation turns to in times of crisis or in times of national unity.”
Red Bee recently designed the new brand identity for France 2, a television channel serving a country that has been stricken by unimaginable tragedies over the last few years. In response, Red Bee and the channel aimed “for something that could embrace horrific events after the attacks in Paris or Nice,” Mawer said. “France 2 talked a lot about how they’ve got an almost campaigning role to celebrate the diversity of the nation in what could otherwise be a quite fractured time… and fairly on I started thinking about this notion of human touch.”
It’s rare to see an on-air brand as nakedly emotional as the new France 2. Its component parts are now connected not by graphics but by live-action vignettes of real humans engaged in meaningful physical contact. At the end of each of them, a person literally touches the screen, “almost symbolizing the channel reaching out to its viewers,” Mawer said. In an age of irony and cynical self-awareness, this complete and utter earnestness makes for a bold and unforgettable statement. “We forget the power of doing this,” he continued, “of putting an arm around someone’s shoulder.”
To best evoke its themes of touch and diversity, Red Bee elected to street-cast the talent for the France 2 promos, including real-life pairings such as two North African Muslim pals, a lesbian couple, a biracial set of expecting parents, and members of a wheelchair basketball team. “We decided really early on that we would get natural human relationships rather than people from casting agencies,” Mawer said. “We felt that was the only way to get authenticity out of the little moments we were looking for, by finding genuine lovers, genuine mothers and children, genuine friends.” Those moments covered a broad swatch of emotions that can be conveyed through touch, ranging from condoling to tender, loving, challenging and beyond.
Weaving threads of togetherness both figuratively and literally, these moments are parsed into on-air elements that literally connect across the identity. Coming out of a program, for instance, a vignette might involve a mother and child baking together. Going back into the show, you would then see that same girl now touching the screen with her flour-dusted hand. “So you see an intimate moment of touch, and then they connect with you by touching the screen,” Mawer said. “The top and tails are connected.”
Shooting of the little scenes occurred largely in and around the commune of Massy, just outside the center of Paris, and was a process both supple and highly technical. Director Jane Fielder frequently let the camera roam when the talent was unaware of being shot, catching them in moments of unguarded expression. At the same time, the screen-touching conclusion of each scene had to be “actually very tightly choreographed,” Mawer said. Shot through a portable glass pane at each location, there was “an extraordinary amount of mathematical calculation” to make the quick little swipes not “feel like a blocking gestures” and to set up a good plate for the logo animation that would be dropped in later.
While the former France 2 logo remains largely intact in the new identity, the way it manifests is highly innovative. Mawer called it “the world’s first touch-sensitive logo,” materializing onscreen with slight variations depending on who in the ident or break bumper is doing the touching. “Each logo is a response to how much light and shade there is, and then the size of the hands that’s coming in,” he said. “It really feels like you’re leaving the mark of your hand as part of the logo.”
Of course, there is no end to the interactive possibilities for a network brand concept built around the concept of touching a screen. “We’ve got some really exciting ideas about how we could take this into the digital space,” Mawer said. For now, he hopes to continue making more on-air elements, perhaps set in farther-flung French locales, continuing to “show the diversity of human interaction and the differing ways we use touch to guide and celebrate.”
Executive Creative Director: Charlie Mawer
Creative Director: Ruth Shabi
Director: Jane Fielder
Producer: Jane Hunt
Account Management: Ben Scoggins, Anita Burnett
Client: Stephen Harle (France 2)
Composer: Alex Jaffray