Suddenly Gone 

2 February 2004 tbs.pm/3432

Russ J Graham on the rebrand that was bodged together in an afternoon.

A few years after Yorkshire and Tyne Tees Television merged, the MD of the combined group, the late Bruce Gyngell, decided to rebrand the two stations. Yorkshire would become Channel 3 Yorkshire, while Tyne Tees would become Channel 3 North East.

The Yorkshire board baulked at re-branding their station with the appellation ‘Channel 3’, but agreed to experiment with the Tyne Tees brand.

Thus Channel 3 North East was born. Its ident, the words ‘North East’ and a large numeral ‘3’, were put together by a Leeds design company, reputedly in an afternoon. It showed.

Also designed, but with rather more time and money being spent, was an introductory promotional film for the new brand. This film also served as an extended ident for the station, and featured often before the local news – renamed ‘North East Tonight’ for the purposes of the experiment.

As we can see from the stills, this film – well shot and crafted – is based on the idea of intertwining shots of northeastern landmarks with things to do with threes. Three swimmers, three ice creams, a cake shaped as a number 3, three old gents, three kids on swings, a red ‘3’ billiard ball, a juggler juggling three plush ‘3’s vie for attention with local sights like York Minster, Durham cathedral, the Middlesbrough transporter bridge, the Tees barrage, the Tyne bridge and Hartlepool marina.

To round the film off, shots of local people – shoppers and football fans – blend into staged shots of local C3NE personalities. Or at least local newsreaders, the station long having abandoned any regionalism other than that it was required to do.

The mixture, over a Lindesfarne-style heavy guitar pop backing, was actually quite engaging. However, it didn’t quite seem to scream ‘North East’ as it may have been hoped. The landmarks may have been local, but the film, the new brand, even the cheap ident, failed to spark and smacked, even to the uninitiated, as being imposed from somewhere more hip and, dare I say it, more cosmopolitan than the North East tends to be.

The whole film showed that someone with talent and money to spend had been engaged to make something of the brand, something exciting to awaken a (by now) fading station losing viewers to a resurgent, if awkwardly named, BBC North East and Cumbria.

But it wasn’t carried through to the ident, or the local news presentation, or the weather… or to any other aspect of the station. The film seemed to be where the thought stopped. After the audience had been wowed by the promotion, the harsh reality of a probably bankrupt idea which did not follow through with the ideas was left.

And yet, with some time and energy being spent on it, the promotional film could have spilled over into the station as a whole. Elements of the film – the juggler, say, or the girl with the birthday cake – could have been used as idents.

A stronger piece of music – composed rather than purchased off the shelf – could have created a station theme to be used on promotions, the local news and a myriad of other places to create a whole package. That this didn’t happen shames Yorkshire Tyne Tees – and doomed the new brand to instant death the moment Granada swooped down upon the struggling Yorkshire Tyne Tees Television company.

This culture of experimentation, of not following through an idea to its logical conclusion, but giving up at the first convenient moment, was something that, unfortunately, Granada seem to have kept at the station.

While the name Tyne Tees leapt back to the fore with another cheap, impersonal ident after the takeover, the new look never gelled. Two years later, and Tyne Tees had another new symbol.

And this is the truly sad, depressing thing of the Granada look for the company. Granada stopped short of properly rebranding and refocusing this poor, embattled and apparently ill-loved station.

The new ident and symbol appeared before the new-look news. The symbol is repeated on the weather. But in an amazing mistake, the ITV corporate branding retained the old TTTV symbol. This may be the first case of a company not only having two symbols, but also using them simultaneously – breaching the rules of design that are taught at A-Level, never mind those of common sense.

C3NE on screen.

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A filmed sequence makes up most of this extended ident, followed by a cheap and nasty symbol.

This ident is littered with good intentions.

You can see some clever ideas poking through, but also the dead hand of a committee laid on top of it. The shots of ‘Tyne Tees People’ are an old idea from the station dating back to the renewal of the franchise.

The teasing appearances of the number three are clever, but limited. And, when the promo for the ‘new’ station is done, a cheap and rickety ident appears – with a tiny mention of Tyne Tees Television running along the bottom. Welcome to triple branding – perhaps another reference to ‘3’?

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