SILVER SPRING, MD: Discovery Channel programming staple Animal Planet is launching a major rebranding effort in February, shedding its soft and furry side for programming and an image with more bite.
Facing stagnant ratings, the 11-year-old channel decided to scrap its family-friendly format and go with more adult-oriented content and a new look to go along with it.
Dubbed "Same planet, different world," the campaign kicks off on February 4 in New York with a media event featuring animals, several of the channel's stars, and a photo exhibit of its new ads shot by renowned photographer Jill Greenberg.
Organizers intend for the campaign to change consumers' perceptions of the brand.
"We didn't just need a refresh," said Brian Eley, Animal Planet's director of communications, "we needed a re-boot."
To that end, Animal Planet will completely overhaul its image, said Eley, adding that the network felt the channel's shows are intimately tied with its brand perception.
The network, known for its documentary and host-driven formats, will start by debuting eight new series and specials next month alone, along with a redesigned Web site, which features the new logo - animals peering out of bold lettering - and rotating animal print backgrounds.
New graphic ads and narrative TV commercials designed to allow viewers to see animals as characters, not merely creatures, will also be unveiled.
Eley said Animal Planet's new shows, as well as the campaign, will tap into viewers' animal instincts - fear, hunger, pleasure, nurture - with compelling stories and immersive storytelling. Escape to Chimp Eden follows chimp rescuers in Africa; A Year with Lions highlights the mysterious cats through the eyes of a researcher living with them; and Whale Wars spotlights the contentious whaling trade.
Last week, Greenberg - noted for the ads she shot for Showtime's Dexter series - photographed several animals for large-scale ads to go on bus shelters, subway walls, and other public spaces. Animal Planet will use the photographs and additional video stills in 30-, 20-, and 15-second TV spots to be shown on Discovery's other networks.
"We are throwing a lot into this," explained Eley. "It's very critical to us."