Behind the strategy: ITV.

From an emblem of the broadcast era to a relatable brand that embodies Britain today.

As the UK's oldest independent broadcaster, ITV had a lot of brand love, particularly from those who had grown up with the network. But it was also losing resonance with some audiences. In other words, ITV was ready for a mammoth change. Whilst new streaming services had been launching and taking attention away from broadcast, ITV’s streaming capabilities hadn’t kept pace. It was time to make a shift: launch a revitalised streaming service and roll-out an updated brand that created an intertwined ecosystem between live, streamed and on-demand content. We needed to communicate to viewers that ITV is so much more than what they’d previously thought.

As new ways of viewing were taking precedence, the brand experience across digital felt clunky—too much like a catch-up platform rather than a destination for viewing.

We set out to change these perceptions on a strategic level, so that we could create principles to shape every aspect of the brand, from the name of the new service through to the design system, UX and motion theory. Our findings fell into three core areas.

1. ITV is the home of popular entertainment, but this is more than just “guilty pleasure TV”.

Our first port of call was to investigate the assumptions and misconceptions of both ITV and the idea of popular entertainment. We found that a lot of people thought of ITV as a home for reality TV, shiny-floor game shows and easy watches. This was particularly true of audiences who hadn’t grown up with ITV, and so it was an important misconception to undo.

But more than helping audiences to realise the full breadth of ITV’s content, we had to break down the idea of popular entertainment being a guilty pleasure or lesser than other types of television. Because ultimately, as we heard from the client, “being mainstream is the hardest and highest benchmark”.

From the highbrow to the lowbrow, entertainment challenges us, unites us, comforts us, thrills us and starts conversations. The identity needed to do all of that justice and give ITV’s content the respect it deserves.

2. ITV speaks to millions. We had to connect with an audience that is everyone and everywhere but without watering down individuality.

To understand how to change the perceptions of ITV, we had to connect with the audience.

We set out to meet people who are current or potential ITV viewers. Groups from the DB studio went across the country, exploring everywhere from the coastline to the major cities. We spoke to people on the street and asked their opinions of Britain today, what makes a good viewing experience for them, and what they value about watching TV. We wanted to form a real understanding of different viewers and what’s important to them, so we could create a brand that would connect with their many personalities on an emotional level.

“I would consider myself British, but as a nation we’ve lost a lot of the things that used to make me proud.”

Audience interview

However, after days on the road and hundreds of people interviewed, there were no shared opinions and no attitudes or behaviours that could connect the people we met. This is when we realised: it’s this vibrant energy and eclecticism that makes our country what it is. And this is what we needed to capture in the brand. Instead of narrowing our vision to a prescribed set of personas, we needed to represent the ever-changing and undefinable nature of people.

“I feel like I’m both British and Irish… generally I think British people are very proud of who they are.”

Audience interview

We needed the brand to be something that anyone can turn to and feel represented by. This would make ITV more relevant and trustworthy to new viewers, particularly those in the streaming space, while building on the brand love from our regulars.

3. ITV is a welcoming and approachable brand, but also reflects the realities of life.

We explored the competitive landscape of streaming and television, looking at the intricacies of how each brand looks, talks and acts. In this process, we found that ITV came across as a welcoming friend. But whilst there were positive perceptions that came with this, there was a danger that we could be perceived as needing more substance.

Through speaking with stakeholders, we found that ITV is so much more. They’re a mirror to reality, shining light on important conversations on a national scale. ITV reflects real lives, but not in a polarising or glorifying way. The new brand needed to continue to do this in a meaningful way; we needed to be powerfully relatable.

Reflecting and connecting modern Britain.

Our approach was all about understanding what would shift perceptions, taking ITV forward into a new era. We uncovered three core principles that would guide our creative approach:

  1. Respect the power of entertainment.
  2. Embrace the undefinable nature of modern Britain.
  3. Champion authentic, real emotions.

Together these principles give the brand permission to act with confidence, inspire escapism, meet audiences where they are and make everyone feel welcome and seen. By rooting the design development in these core ideas, we ultimately created a brand that helped audiences reappraise ITV as a powerful destination for content.

A modern digital experience for a modern Britain.

To create a brand that belongs to today’s Britain, we also had to make sure the strategy framework was fully integrated into the digital experience; everything had to come together seamlessly for a modern audience. We kept three key ideas in mind as we crafted the digital experience:

  1. It had to be inclusive and accessible. We aimed to create an experience for the whole nation, not just a select few. It had to fit seamlessly into people’s lives in a way that added value and functionality.
  2. It had to express meaning with a flexible personality. The tone of voice and interaction design had to flex for the needs of all the different genres of content offered on the platform.
  3. It had to stand out from the crowd. Like modern Britain, we needed to embrace our eclectic spirit and find moments to break visual norms. Viewers should feel that they’re gaining something unique by choosing us. 

Take a deeper look at the design here.

“Working with a brand of this scale is a huge honour, but also a huge responsibility. We had to understand where there were opportunities to create change, but all with a humble respect for the content, the audience and the heritage. We did this by becoming (even more of) a fan of the brand and putting ourselves in the shoes of the audience. By doing this we could recognise core behaviours, attitudes and values, and work out how the brand could respond to them.”

Claire Langer, senior strategist