The Art of Rock & Roll: MTV’s Branding Revolution, Part

Oct 31, 2012

By Tony Best

It’s difficult to deny MTV’s huge impact on modern television culture. Aside from pioneering the concept of a 24-hour music video outlet, the network transformed the way audiences engaged with broadcast design and branding. In an industry that once considered on-air marketing an obligatory but ephemeral offshoot, MTV changed the game by producing interstitial content that was just as compelling as its programming.

In this first installment covering MTV’s influence on television marketing, we’ve culled a series of IDs from the network’s golden '80s era that have a distinct pop art aesthetic.  They range from the weird and wacky to the just plain cool. Rock on. 

Moon Landing
The launch that started it all debuted at midnight on August 1, 1981. Lifting footage from NASA’s Columbia and Apollo 11 missions, this ID gives a nod to Andy Warhol’s pop sensibilities.

“I Want My MTV”

MTV saved the music business from a period of recession following the death of disco.  Because music videos helped labels sell a ton of records, music executives returned the favor by loaning their artists for various MTV campaigns. This semi-rotoscoped spot recalls the work of Tadanori Yokoo; its slogan would also become one of the Dire Straits' most famous lyrics.

“Electric Toothpaste”
If Disney dropped acid with Peter Max, the result would probably look like “Electric Toothpaste”… with a few pink elephants, of course.

“Living Room”
MTV surrealism at its finest, this hypnotic image spot would make Salvador Dalí proud. 

“Service Station”
A parody of '50s industrial idealism, this animated ditty pays homage to the work of Roy Lichtenstein and crams in an impressively extensive jingle considering the spot is all of 10 seconds..


An effective use of Richard Hamilton-eque mixed media, “Chainsaw” is symptomatic of MTV’s overall brand and attitude; thrashing the rules (and arguably good taste) of television programming.

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