The whole story of VH-1 is probably only interesting to those who lived it, given how non-interesting the network has been for most of it’s life, and we were involved from the beginning for almost 15 years. While Fred and Alan had left MTV 18 months before, they were still considered a vital part of the brain trust that could help launch networks at the company. Here’s a few notes on the network identity/branding work we did the first time out. In 1985.
Origin: Ted Turner decided that MTV played devil’s music (hey, Ted was little skewed in those days) and was going to launch an “acceptable” alternative. MTV Networks wasn’t going to lose the goose that laid the golden egg and decided to fight Ted playing his own game. (In 1982, when ABC annouced a competing cable news service, Turner put CNN2, now Headline News, on the air within weeks and crushed ABC.) We strategized and executed the company’s second music network within weeks.
The name: Our boss, programming head Bob Pittman, was annoyed that his team rejected his pet name for MTV, TV-1, on the grounds that no one had a “1” on their TVs (remember, in 1981, people still had TV dials that went from channel 2 to channel 13). By 1985 he was powerful enough that the new music channel became, by his decree, VH-1: Video Hits One.
The programming: The programming needed to be available, inexpensive, and seemingly popular. Oh, and it couldn’t “cannibalize” MTV’s viewers. So, it would be poisitioned as music video for an older group (MTV was for folks 12 to 34 years old), 25 to 49 years old. Less rock and more pop. In reality, it meant any darn music videos MTV wouldn’t touch.
The logo & network IDs: My mentor Dale Pon and his partner, ad legend George Lois, had done the iconic “I Want My MTV” advertising, so George was asked to design the logo. Having not one pop music vein in his body, we got what we got.
Fred/Alan gathered up our most reliable animation collaborators, and churned out as many IDs as we could in four weeks (not easy with traditional cell animation and 1980s motion graphics). IDs that wouldn’t seem like they “belonged” on MTV. In other words, have fun, but not too much fun. As you can hear on the last pieces, it was the beginning of our Top 40 radio jingles era.0 comments Tagged: 1985, Network IDs, VH-1, VH1, Video Hits, animation, branding, MTV Networks,.