Rialto Channel rebrand adds some self-awareness, shows it’s not all Eastern Bloc think-pieces

Intebrand and a new self-aware print, radio and digital campaign via DDB that aims to attract a broader demographic and position Rialto as ‘The Storyteller’. 

“We’ve never done anything like this before. But from our point of view, independent film has changed,” says Roger Wylie, Rialto Channel’s general manager. “It’s not just art house film anymore.” And he says the perception of the channel needed to change from ‘they do foreign films’, to an ‘entertainment channel that has something for me.’

Rialto Channel is still known for its selection of alternative movies and documentaries that differ from standard Hollywood fare, and that won’t change, says Wylie. There are still really clear boundaries around who gets to show what, with Sky Movies signed up for output deals with the major studios. But indie film has become more acceptable in recent years and, as we’ve seen from box office successes like The King’s Speech and Iron Lady, they can have plenty of mainstream appeal. So it was time to show punters there’s a lightness and humour to the brand. ​

The tongue-in-cheek series from DDB is designed to reaffirm the channel’s reputation as a committed storyteller while undressing a quirky sense of playfulness that has not previously been associated with the brand. “If there’s nudity, there’s a really profound reason for it” jokes one, while another suggests, “When the actors are this ugly, the story has to be great”.

“This campaign has given our brand a facelift without making it look unrecognisable,” says Wylie. “I believe it will recruit a new generation of viewers to Rialto Channel.”

Interbrand was tasked with creating a new brand identity and it contemporised the logo while keeping the name, typeface and use of the ‘R’ and star to connect back to the heritage of the old brand.

James Bickford, managing director, says it aimed to reposition Rialto as “the curator of the best films from around the world”. 

“We achieved this by combining the two graphic elements into a window device that allows the audience to step through and choose from a wide range of content. The window device is used in a dynamic way; focusing on actors’ faces and eyes. This technique allows the brand to showcase the diverse range of film on offer and helps position the channel as ‘The Storyteller’. It’s been a great opportunity to work with the Rialto team who are passionate about world class film.”

While Rialto is screened on Sky, it is completely independent of it (DDB also holds the Sky business and it is thought to have fought off TBWA\ and two smaller agencies in a competitive pitch a few months back to retain the advertising, branding and digital services). And it is still 100 percent New Zealand-owned and programmed. 

Sky has been pushing into Rialto’s space somewhat with the launch of SoHo, which features a range of TV shows from HBO, AMC and Showtime. But while there are similarities in tone, Wylie says the arrival of this channel hasn’t impacted on Rialto’s numbers, and, if anything, it’s a positive (he wouldn’t discuss exact subscriber numbers, but did say the channel has doubled its viewing hours in the past two years). 

“I think they complement each other really well. If you’re a Rialto watcher, you’re likely to be a SoHo watcher as well,” he says. 

The Rialto website has also been updated, and it has been a bit more active in terms of sponsorship in recent months too, and Wylie says its partnerships with the George FM Breakfast show and the 48 Hour Film Festival are aligned with this campaign and its efforts to attract a younger audience. 

Rialto’s Cinema division was bought by Event Cinemas and while Wylie says there is still a synergy, there’s no shared ownership. 


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