Venables, Bell Teams With Design Firm for Cable Biz

Animal Planet has chosen Venables, Bell & Partners and design shop Imaginary Forces to tout the network’s increasingly diverse programming lineup.

Finalists for the $10-15 million account included Maxxcom’s Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Venice, Calif., and Miami; and independents Modernista! in Boston and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners in New York, sources said. The client, which has handled most of its creative work in-house, declined to confirm the list.

PHD in New York will continue to handle media planning and buying.

Seeking a stronger network identity, Animal Planet paired ad agencies with design firms for the review, asking Venables, Bell in San Francisco and Imaginary Forces in Los Angeles and New York to partner on the pitch.

“There are not many pitches where they put together two shops that have these stand-alone reputations and ask them to work side by side,” said co-creative director Greg Bell.

One of Imaginary Forces’ tasks will be to update the channel’s logo, which now includes an elephant and a globe.

Venables, Bell and Imaginary Forces will work with the client’s 16-person marketing department to create ads to support key programs, as well as overall image work.

When Animal Planet launched six years ago, the channel focused on nature documentaries. While they are still an important part of the lineup, programming also includes shows with domesticated animals.

“We don’t think people are aware of the diversity of programming,” Hunn said. “Consumer perception is a little out of date. We want to get across the idea that the network is contemporary, fun, dramatic and has a lot to offer.”

Name recognition for Animal Planet is strong, and people have affection for the brand, Hunn said. The network is hoping to “leverage that love into viewing behavior,” he said. Animal Planet reaches more than 80 million homes in the U.S. and has an average prime-time audience of nearly 600,000, according to a client rep.

The network’s programs include Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom; animal talent show Pet Star; drama Animal Precinct and The Crocodile Hunter.

Animal Planet creates more than 400 commercials a year to promote its programs, said Jim Hunn, vp of marketing. In addition to running spots on its own network and on fellow Discovery Communications-owned stations such as Discovery, TLC, the Travel Channel and Discovery Health, Animal Planet buys spot cable, Hunn said.

Venables, Bell will also back a new show called Beverly Hills Vet. The program, which premieres Sept. 2, features Australian veterinarian Katrina Warren, who prescribes cures for animals with odd maladies and meets their eccentric owners.

“Venables, Bell was very good as an outside entity at helping us look at ourselves,” Hunn said. He added that Animal Planet liked the shop’s work for UltimateTV from Microsoft and HBO Home Video.

Hunn said he was also impressed with Imaginary Forces’ experience with films such as Spider-Man, Minority Report and Daredevil, as well as the firm’s redesigns of Lifetime and Comedy Central.

Work is expected to break as soon as the end of the month.