Brand Character & Marketing
Print and Video Campaigns

TCI Cablevision Southeast Division wanted to change their public image from a Utility Company (like power and phone) to Entertainment Service Provider. They needed a new Brand Identity. However, they had never done this kind of self-marketing in video before.

They needed a creative interface with their Ad Agency: me.

Creative Direction
Brand Usage Guide
Concept & Design
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Writer/Creative Director/Media Producer

Up until this point, most of TCI's marketing was print; when they did video spots, it was only to feature upcoming channels or programs. In one of their print pieces, their ad agency had created a stylized TV set to illustrate some of the features.

That lil guy would get elevated to "star status" and become TCI's own brand character -- Telvis. (Full disclaimer: I did NOT name the character so like the name or hate it, can't praise or blame ME.) He was a helpful television (remember when TVs weighed a zillion pounds? Ah, the Stone Age.) who would represent the programming cable offers.

First use of "Telvis"  

Telvis - from Print to VideoHaving no experience in creating video, the Marketing Manager for TCI Southeast asked me to act as his creative liaison with the Atlanta-based ad agency producing this spot (with a budget into the upper 6 figures, which was unheard of for a cable television promo). As editor/producer for a TCI video production division and commercial production department, I had earned a bit of a reputation as a creative video guy.

Initially in pre-production, I made a few suggestions regarding the character: make him more cartoony, give him bigger, more expressive eyes, lose the hands and arms.

The agency and the New York based production house began story-boarding the spot. By the time I had opportunity for new input, the basic concept was in place; from that point, I could offer changes as long as they followed the spot concept.

Telvis was a small TV who would come to life and have adventures that represented cable channels (music for MTV, sports for ESPN, and the like). The first thing I noticed in their storyboard was that Telvis was turned on by a remote control. Fine, that was true enough, but it didn't really visually connect the viewer with TCI as a cable provider. I suggested having a fibre-optic cable fly around and attach to the televion; the cable itself brought the tv "to life." (A little kinky if you have that kind of mind but got the point across and let us introduce the TCI logo immediately in the spot.)

Original concept and my notes and scribbles to make changes

Actual size of Telvis model used in videoAdventure had another name: TelvisTelvis drops in to 24 Hour News
They also needed to add a news setup (back when only CNN offered 24 hour coverage) and the adventure segment could use the addition of a good Explorer Hat. A visit to the New York Production House during final edit revealed that instead of hand-animating Telvis, they had created actual Telvis Body Figures for every position that would have the face animated onto them. That might have accounted for some of the six figure numbers. One of the producers graciously offered me (swiped for me) one.

The first :30 second Telvis Spot
Telvis: The Further Adventures

The Southeast Division of TCI originally envisioned the Telvis spot as a stand-alone that could ostensibly be broken up into genre-specific segments (news, sports, music) and used to tie together other video ad campaigns. The challenge... no, let's be honest here, the PROBLEM was that the not all of the bits worked solo. The open/close worked fine as a donut for other content and special offers, but the :03 seconds of "news" wasn't going to help much in solo form, and there were a lot of areas the spot didn't touch upon.

There needed to be... more. There also needed to be a print tie-in to the "new" Telvis. There hadn't been much thought given to that as everyone at the Division level ogled both the spot and the price tag.

Telvis CGI videos and Print versionsI had to offer them a more affordable solution to both. Creating a Telvis Print Guide was the least of the concerns; conceptualizing print versions of Telvis that represented generic and specific applications (education, sheer number of channels, music service) was a combination of spotting tie-ins from the first spot and discovering the upcoming marketing plans and building versions to serve those needs. Video however was going to be problematic. TCI wasn't going to let loose of another high 6-figure budget and even using traditional "hand" animation was going to be costly. The solution required embracing the future: Computer Generated characters.

This was 1994. Jurassic Park had just made its own CGI splash on the big screen, but it was a fledgling art at that point. Fortunately, a cartoon character like Telvis was easier to computer generate than a velociraptor; besides we had an actual physical model used from the original spot to start from. Taking the concepts devised for the print-version Telvis, I worked with some enterprising folks at an Orlando production company at Universal Studios.

The result was a series of video segments all done for a 1/3 the cost of the original :30 spot. A bit crude by today's standards, these segments were pretty cutting-edge at the time and combined with the Telvis Graphics Standards Guide gave all of the TCI's cable systems in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and the Carolinas more than enough material to promote themselves as entertainment providers using their accepted print marketing plus using video -- the very medium they delivered to their customers.

Telvis Standards and Graphics Guide excerpt
Excerpt from Telvis Graphics Standards Guide

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