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Talking With Troika: Pappalardo and Thompson on Rebranding The CW

by User Not Found | Dec 21, 2012

By Justin W. Sanders

The single-screen viewing experience is, if not dying, at least past its prime. Few in our industry need proof of this admonition, but Nielsen’s recently released State of the Social Union Report drives the point home just in case: 41% of tablet users and 38% of smartphone owners in the US are simultaneously surfing the web while watching their favorite TV shows, and this number is growing, here and abroad. The stats tell the tale. Long live the single screen!

As Dan Pappalardo, executive creative director and partner at Troika, put it, “TV networks are no longer one-way, single-channel propositions.” Few creative agencies understand this better than Troika, whose recent CW rebranding campaign sought to reconnect the network with its youthful, increasingly tech-savvy viewership by engaging them seamlessly across multiple media platforms. Pappalardo, along with Troika creative director and brand designer Reid Thompson, took a break from trendsetting recently to talk to us about new media business opportunities, emotionally invested consumers and what it means to have a “truly transmedia broadcast brand.”

So, what does it mean to have a “truly transmedia broadcast brand?”

Pappalardo: A truly transmedia broadcast brand is a network that sees themselves as a channel-agnostic brand platform and behaves as such. A traditional broadcast or cable channel may still provide the primary experience, but the whole system of content creation, distribution, promotion, engagement and monetization takes into consideration all media channels as an integrated ecosystem. 

Audiences are now scattered across a much broader array of entertainment media options as the result of a continuous stream of technological innovations. New screens, broadband, mobile, real-time metrics, social media and interactive engagement have disrupted established boundaries and patterns. The resulting chaos has created business opportunities for media companies of all kinds to create, aggregate, support, distribute and display content in new ways. 


Facilitating an emotional connection between the CW’s shows and your viewers is a key component of this rebrand. How does digital integration provide that connection in ways that were not previously possible?

The brand is now a two-way experience; not only does The CW speak to its audience but the audience now actively interacts with The CW. We designed OOH assets, for instance, to incorporate app icons and Twitter handles so consumers could engage with The CW immediately rather than wait until Thursday to watch and talk about their favorite show. An engaged consumer is an emotionally invested consumer.

From the beginning, we knew we had to think of The CW’s brand ecosystem holistically. We created icon and language tools that could be used by all the teams from on-air to digital to social. The show-specific Facebook pages have grids and guidelines to remind you that each is a CW show. We looked for opportunities to infuse the brand everywhere. All of these little cues help to create a more cohesive experience for the consumer.

What was the process for developing the “TV Now” slogan and other CW brand language?

"TV Now" aligned perfectly with the goals for the brand for both consumer and partner communication. It aligns with the live-for-now spirit of the audience and says that The CW is redefining what it means to be a television network. We worked on communication in conjunction with the brand concept and design.

You developed signature “living key art” for this rebrand. Can you expound on that term? How does it differ from other networks’ key art?

Pappalardo: Key art is typically a still, print-based marketing image that captures the essence of a show. For The CW, we extended the traditional concept of key art to include all media channels – print, digital and broadcast. The still image used in a print ad literally comes to life with subtle motion, through live-action, in all dynamic media applications, whether it be the TV, an iPad App, or other [platform]. 

Keeping the “brand blueprint” straight across all those platforms, ensuring the same message stays consistent everywhere, seems like a nearly impossible task – even more so in the transmedia era. Can you talk a bit about how Troika kept track of it all as the rebrand developed?

Large network rebrands have long been grand undertakings with hundreds of unique deliverables designed to work as a unified whole. That's one reason so few have mastered them. We applied the same method to The CW's recent rebrand that we always have at Troika: we thoroughly researched the client's consumer touchpoints, methodically mapped them out and then innovated design systems in service of every touchpoint opportunity we could find. Granted, today's touchpoints are evolving at an unprecedented pace. We now have an employee solely dedicated to transmedia landscape mapping and we apply it in our process for every brand we work with.

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