New Graphics, Music, Shape China Global Television Network’s Rebrand

by Cate Lecuyer Marian  |  04.04.2017

The rebranding of China Central Television International (CCTV) to China Global Television Network (CGTN) began with Stephen Arnold strumming his guitar, sitting on a barstool in a big room in Beijing.

More than 50 people with ties to the channel group, which reaches more than one billion people around the world, listened as he played. They opened not just their ears, but their emotions, getting a feel for the music and finding a common ground for the sound they were going for so that Stephen Arnold Music could post-score compositions to Flint Skallen’s graphics as part of the network’s rebranding campaign.

That face time was essential to the campaign’s success, said Chad Cook, vice president of creative at Stephen Arnold Music.

“It’s very difficult with such a subjective thing as music to get a whole group of people to agree,” he said.

And more to the point: “It’s hard to sell even the greatest piece of music if you don’t know what the client is looking for.”

Establishing that baseline gave both Cook, and Stefan Mueller, executive creative producer and consultant at Flint Skallen, a clearer perspective on how to work together to update the channel group’s image.

The two agencies built upon their 2015 collaboration with the network, with Stephen Arnold Music keeping the original four-note mnemonic at the heart of the campaign, while adding fresh arrangements to accompany Flint Skallen’s visceral new images.

Flink Skallen decided to “keep the structure, but change the eye dance,” Mueller said, maintaining the basic graphics of the old design, but reworking the colors by replacing the red of CCTV with a more international-feeling blue for CGTN.

Broadcasting around the world in Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian, CGTN covers international news with a balanced view from a Chinese perspective, and Mueller wanted to make sure the imagery of the brand was both globally recognized and inoffensive.

“With so many different cultural regions, you have to find a design that maybe is not liked everywhere in the world, but is at least accepted,” Mueller said.

By the same token, “If a Russian guy is flying for business to America, he should really feel, from the moment he switches it on, that it’s the same channel.”

The rebrand also highlights a multi-platform shift at CGTN, and subtly incorporates digital media and mobile aspects into the design, which are accentuated by soundscape elements that cascade along with the visual pulses.

“You’re trying to bring everything to life as much as possible,” Cook said. “All these little subtleties are what makes a post-scored piece so special.”

While so much creative went into executing the rebrand, the name change itself took three years to get approved, and serves a very practical purpose. CGTN (China Global Television Network) distinguishing the foreign language channels from CCTV—an acronym that’s recognized as China Central Television International in China, but has a much different association outside the country.

“Outside of China, it’s security cameras,” Mueller said, referring to closed-circuit television.

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