By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan
(To mark ABS-CBN’s 70th anniversary as a media organization, PinoyJournalist looks closer at the company’s visual identity, which has had a makeover in recent years. This is the first of two stories.)
If you’re one of the millions of Filipinos who regularly tune in to the top 10 most-watched shows on primetime TV or who view stories on the country’s most-visited news site, then not a day goes by when you don’t see the ubiquitous vertical bar and 3 rings that identify the Philippines’ largest media network.
There’s a chance you might not know that the icon you encounter these days on your TV set or gadget is no longer the one you’ve seen 5 years ago.
It’s already been 2 years since ABS-CBN changed its logo–its seventh corporate emblem since pioneering local television in 1953.
And if you haven’t still noticed it, that’s because they intended it that way.
The people behind the enhancements call it a refreshed, modernized look that’s less corporate, more consumer-oriented, and prepped for the digital media age.
The new logo also comes with stricter guidelines for its use, a new corporate typeface, and a graphic design theme that expands the logo rings into the rays of a rising sun or the horizon of a bright future.
It’s all part of an imaging overhaul for a corporation that has diversified into other ventures beyond broadcasting.
It began in 2012, as ABS-CBN prepared to celebrate 60 years in television. The big bosses saw it was time to review how the Kapamilya network presented itself to its consumers.
“We recognized that the brand is growing,” said Robert Labayen, head of ABS-CBN Integrated Creative Communications Management (CCM), which handles the promotion of ABS-CBN platforms and programs.
“With the speed that ABS-CBN has grown and expanded in the past 10 years, many logo variations came out that were not policed. So recognizing that more sub-brands, more ABS-CBN products will rise in the future, we need to discipline how they relate to the main ABS-CBN brand,” he said.
ABS-CBN Integrated Marketing head Cookie Bartolome, who led the project, said they did not start out planning to change the logo.
“We wanted to look back into the history of ABS-CBN and be able to capture who we are and what we are here for,” she said.
They formed a brand “essence” from that, intended to guide how the company would communicate and expand: “authentic, transformational journeys.” Beyond content and services, they envisioned, ABS-CBN created “genuine moments that touch lives”.
Only then did the team—which included Bartolome, Labayen, and other executives—review the company’s visual identity and logo. The process entailed designing hundreds of sample ABS-CBN logos ranging from slightly altered versions of the three rings to the extremely far-off.
“We wanted to see the entire breadth if we really had to change the logo completely. If we went that far, would people still recognize us? Would we alienate our consumers?” Bartolome said.
“In the end, we realized how strong and how relevant the logo was. We decided that ‘You know what, we don’t need to change it.’”
After the country’s first TV station, Alto Broadcasting System (ABS), merged with the Lopez family’s Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN) in 1957, then-president Eugenio “Geny” Lopez, Jr. proceeded to establish an insignia for the corporation.
Inspired by the minimalist eye logo of the CBS network in the United States, executive Jun Jison and promotions man Iggy Vitalis drafted an orb of three concentric circles. They presented it to Lopez, who drew in a bar from the center down to represent the transmitter tower and then said, “There, that’s it.”
Since coming out in 1967, ABS-CBN’s rings went from monochrome to color, from 2D to 3D, yet essentially stayed the same—the ABS on top and the CBN below.
Its most radical change came on January 1, 2000, when it gave up the thick, solid box for a transparent, crystal plane, its letters finally joined at the bottom.
Cookie Bartolome’s team dissected the logo as it developed and found its elements still meaningful. The tower bar conveyed being “dignified” as a company. The rings–which long stood for Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and the network’s reach–also showed its “range for imagination” and its “pioneering, embracing” spirit.
The ABS-CBN logo had also grown to a stature not unlike that of globally recognized brands like Apple, Coca-Cola and McDonalds.
“Seeing the rings, people automatically know that it’s ABS-CBN and we said we want to empower that even more,” Bartolome said.
For Robert Labayen, radically changing a logo only happens for a company in bad shape or facing a crisis. The team found that the ABS-CBN brand in fact enjoyed a strong public image.
Bartolome added: “People have such a big stake in ABS-CBN, they feel that they own it–which is something very rare for certain brands. Because people were so invested in the ABS-CBN brand, we knew that we had something very strong in our current logo.”
Singapore-based design firm FutureBrand was consulted for technical tweaks and an international perspective. The hundreds of logo studies were narrowed down to three and finally one–a minimally altered version of the 2000 logo.
The thicker, more prominent rings are now more distinguished when shrunk for websites and mobile devices–a nod to the bigger role of new media in ABS-CBN’s interests.
After a year in the making, the new logo was supposed to have been released during the 60th anniversary of television in October 2013.
But it didn’t happen. Many elements and materials like the logo’s broadcast animation still needed work. Super Typhoon Yolanda’s onslaught in November further stalled the launch.
The network’s “Kuwento ng Pagbangon” (Story of Recovery) campaign at the start of 2014 gave the most apt and “perfect” timing to finally release it, Bartolome said.
Viewers first saw the new logo understatedly placed in ABS-CBN’s New Year station ID dubbed “Masayang Muli ang Kuwento Natin” (Our story is happy once more), and only more than a month later did the network launch a full-blown animated ident.
The changes to the logo were purposely made unnoticeable to the public eye, said Labayen. It also explains why it wasn’t unveiled with the same fanfare as in 2000.
“We wanted people to see the same familiar ABS-CBN that they grew up with,” Bartolome added. “But with a new feel.”
*Many thanks to Eric Florentino for laying out the infographics.