On 25 November 1989, only 25 years ago, TV3 had no viewers. The station was only set to launch the next day following a four-year period of legal wrangling to get government approval to introduce a commercial television station. Now, as the channel celebrates its quarter century, its parent company MediaWorks has a reach of 3,759,247 and has established itself as a respected competitor against the state-owned broadcasting stalwart TVNZ.
"This milestone presents an opportunity to wave the TV3 flag and remind viewers of some of the key moments in our history," says MediaWorks head of publicity and marketing Amanda Wilson.
To do this, the MediaWorks marketing team has pulled together a cross-channel and cross-platform campaign that uses both TV stars and ordinary Kiwis in the promotional material.
To kick things off, Jono and Ben hosted a '½ Half Century celebration' on Friday at the family friendly time of 7.30 during which the pair—with help from Guy Williams and Rose Matafeo—gave a comedic nod to the history of New Zealand broadcasting.
"The guys did a great job of this," says Wilson, "and the ratings showed kiwis loved it, with TV3 winning the night in all four key demos."
Since TV3 first hit the not-flat-screen TVs in Kiwi households, 3News has been part of the broadcasting fold, so it's only fitting that the programme also plays a significant role in promoting the anniversary.
As part of its celebratory contribution, 3News will screen a series of retrospective mini-documentaries at 6pm, beginning Sunday 23 November for five nights. The documentaries examine the network’s coverage of significant events, personalities and stories that have shaped New Zealand and the world.
The coverage begins with the first 3News broadcast on 27 November 1989, then looks at the critical moments in Kiwi history, including political, international and domestic events. There is also a selection of comedic on-air mishaps and iconic moments that have occurred in the network’s news broadcast history.
3News has also launched a microsite at 3News.co.nz/25years, featuring an interactive timeline containing important news events and coverage from the last 25 years, career-defining stories from 3News presenters, blooper reels, behind-the-scenes images, among other segments.
Coinciding with the Jono and Ben's show, TV3 also unveiled ‘For Me It’s 3,’ a new brand expression, which refreshes the overall look and feel of the channel.
"'For Me It’s 3’ puts viewers and talent at the absolute forefront of our brand – where they belong," says Wilson. "Our platforms are there to connect the two. A series of on-air idents feature both talent and viewers, provide insight into the unique lives they lead – and the role TV3 plays in their lives."
MediaWorks has launched a series of executions for the platform, and Wilson says that it will continue to be expanded after the 25-year celebrations come to an end. She says TV3 will build on this in the coming weeks by featuring snippets of both TV personalities and viewers sharing what they like about the channel.
"There is plenty of scope with this campaign and we will be building depth and layers over the next few months," she says. "The idents will provide a way for viewers to get to know our talent better – as secrets are revealed (John Campbell doesn’t think Jono and Ben are particularly funny, although he watches them every Friday night with his kids. Jeremy Corbett gets a kick out of Hilary Barry cracking up on the news). And we’ll [also] get to know some of our viewers better [while giving] them their own 15 seconds of fame."
This new brand expression follows on from a long history of different branding iterations, which have been presented via TV3's—sometimes ridiculously long—channel idents over the years (Dave Dobbyn puts in quite an inspired performance for the first one).
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And as the brand identity has evolved, so too have the TV3 taglines, with viewers being treated to a variety of catchphrases, which almost invariably involved rhyming (the exception being 2002's 'Our Favourite Place').
The TV3 taglines to date:
1989 – Only on 3
1991 – More to see on 3
1993 – It’s on 3
1994 – Turn around look at 3
1996 – The best things in life are 3
2002 – Our favourite place
2011 – No place I’d rather be
2014 – For me it’s 3
And with the inspiration found at RhymeZone only a click away, we can almost certainly look forward to more rhyming in the future.
As is usually the case with MediaWorks' promotional material, the latest brand identity was developed in-house, but Contagion was also brought in to work on some of the digital extensions that have been rolled out.
Wilson says that the strategy underpinning the campaign is to place emphasis on what she calls social viewing, which involves a closer connection between the stars and the viewers.
"Our success is about the strength of relationship between viewers and our talent, and the level of involvement kiwis have with our content," she says.
"Our talent are real, accessible and very much loved by fans, and this campaign celebrates those things. The scripts are written by our talent individually and provide real authentic insight into their lives. We’ve been blown away by the way they have got involved. At the end of the day, we’re celebrating our content, and putting our people (viewers/talent) at the absolute forefront, while ensuring we connect back to the brand. TV3 is serving as something of a social glue, which we’re increasingly becoming."
As the online environment continues to change the media landscape, this social viewing trend will only become more pronounced. This was seen recently during the finale of The Block, when the Twitter community took to social media to commend Alex and Corban Walls' generosity. And Wilson says that the evolution of the brand is being driving by the changing consumption habits of its viewership.
"Today’s TV3 is known for shows like 7 Days, The Block, 3News and more," she says. "It’s more social and therefore more connected with viewers. But there has always been a certain special something about the way TV3 does things. We are remembered for putting shows like Bro’Town and Outrageous Fortune on air – and taking things a little further. Whenever we do brand research 'fresh' and 'real' are the words that are the biggest in the wordle."
And staying fresh and real is becoming increasingly important in a competitive environment, which now includes online viewing options in addition to the established juggernaut TVNZ.
"'Established juggernaut' is an interesting use of words", says Wilson, "and possibly provides an advantage for MediaWorks. I think we can be more nimble and responsive."
So given that TV3 has weathered the ups and downs of the broadcasting industry—as well as two receiverships—over the last 25 years, what's next for the brand?
"Right now we are all very excited about 2015," says Wilson. "We are still on a high after the success of our 'New Season Launch' and we have some great content to bring to market in 2015. We are working better than ever across radio, television and online so that’s going to be a great thing for our brands, viewers and clients."