Animal Planet 'Safe’ No More

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When Animal Planet launches its rebranding push in February, the channel plans to market itself less as a “safe place” to visit and more as a destination for entertainment.

The 10-year-old network has always performed well, but executives have determined that its good will with viewers outpaces its actual ratings, said Animal Planet Media senior vice president of marketing Victoria Lowell. The channel convened consumer panels in top cities and those polled described Animal Planet as a “nice, safe place to be, but not a destination,” she said.

“We’ve always been family focused, with a lot of unwritten rules (about content),” Lowell said. “We weren’t speaking to kids, really, but not to adults, either. We need to push the entertainment value. Viewers said, 'Surprise me,’ if you will.”

The channel will still target the 25-49-year-old demographic, skewing slightly female, animal-passionate, but with a programming mix designed to bring people back week after week.

Animal Planet will move away from its standard natural history programming with the “voice of God” narrator, Lowell said. The channel is looking for its own “buzzamentary,” a la Discovery Channel’s grand success, Planet Earth.

Beginning in March, Lowell describes the programming mix as “adult, almost theatrical.” The programming mix now includes “docu-soaps” Escape to Chimp Eden and Lemur Kingdom; pet entertainment like Petfinder and a reality-competition show Groomer Has It; and unscripted dramas such as Whale Wars and A Year With Lions. The latter Lowell described as “predation programming” that “gets the juices flowing.”

Animal Planet has commissioned a new logo to signal its change: the name of the channel in different size letters, made to look as if it could have been created by an animal, Lowell explained. On TV, the logo will come alive with an animal emerging from the “M.” Animal Planet is working with London-based design agency Dunning, Eley and Jones on the new logo and look; and Minneapolis-based creative agency Mono on the marketing campaign.

New branding ads will feature the photographs of Jill Greenberg, whose latest work includes the book Monkey Portraits. Her work jibes with a new tag line: “Entertainment Has a New Face.”

“As a photographer, she has a way of getting an emotional connection with the animals that create an image with stopping power,” Lowell said.

The images will begin appearing on billboards and in print on Feb. 3. On TV, her photos will be married with clips from new shows.

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