A+E's Amanda Hill Elevates Networks into Cultural Brands

By A+E Networks InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: A+E's Amanda Hill Elevates Networks into Cultural Brands

A+E Networks (a joint venture of Disney and Hearst) has grown from a single cable network devoted to cultural programming -- Arts & Entertainment Network, as it was known when it launched in 1984 -- to a global media content company reaching more than 335 million households. Just over a year ago, Amanda Hill was brought on as Chief Marketing Officer to help continue that trajectory and oversee the brand vision. Hill has already had a big impact on the positioning of the company and its three core consumer brands: A&E, History and Lifetime, summarizing a new branding campaign theme of "the power of stories" in an address to the ANA last week. This week, Hill elaborated on the strategy. 

Soon after Hill took the reins as CMO, the company committed to a portfolio strategy of 'Life, Magnified.' "What that means at the A+E Networks brand portfolio level," she explained, "is that it's our job to cultivate, find and illuminate stories audiences care about.... But each of the brands have their own interpretation of what aspect of 'Life' is appropriate for them to magnify," she added.  For Lifetime, and its core female audience, it becomes a way to "flip the script on labels; for History, it's magnifying our need for knowledge, context and understanding; and for A&E, it's brave storytelling."  The process mandated that each brand "delve deep into what matters to their audiences -- you simply can't stand for what you don't understand. You could almost call it brand archeology."

Informed by qualitative and quantitative research, the new multi-tiered campaign was devised with the "power of stories" corporate identity umbrella message that's carried through executions across all three individual networks. A+E's in-house team worked in partnership with The Sunshine Agency to develop creative that communicates key points for each brand:

  • History came full-circle to a positioning that was an anchor for the brand not long ago, but feels even more relevant today: "History Made Every Day." The rationale is that regardless of technology or news cycles, for history to be written it has to be made and the network spotlights the "powerful stories" of people who defied norms, invented, resisted, won, lost, died but are not forgotten, or are here now and still fighting.
  • Lifetime's brand mission is to own women's hearts by rejecting labels and championing their right to live proudly and passionately on their own terms. They tap the truisms that no two human beings are the same, but that we all want to love and be loved. "We can believe, intellectually, that our differences are what connect us, but our humanity and compassion are what allow us to see where we are the same," Hill describes. Now the network is charged with taking that a step further and going on the road... literally, using what it is uncovering about women's stories across America - from complex, captivating, heartbreaking, to heartwarming and opinionated.
  • A&E, as a brand, champions "Brave Storytelling," based on a belief that hiding in plain sight in everyday life are remarkable people and stories: "Stories of bravery, triumph, struggle, grit, and hope. We just have to look to get closer to the heart of a story and find those authentic moments of truth, then let people see for themselves. Because it's only by looking closer that you see." 

Hill is quick to point out that this isn't a rebrand per se, as the network's names haven't changed. Rather, it's a clarification and shift in focus of the "brand essence." In terms of how the strategy will play out for advertisers and distributors, A+E Networks Executive Vice President of Ad Sales, Peter Olsen, acknowledged, "It's been a process to get to where we are now. Some might say it's about time we moved to a portfolio approach - with a focus on brands and platforms, and less focus on individual programs. But a move of this magnitude doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and dedication. We owe it to our audience and advertisers to deliver premium, culturally relevant content. We couldn't be more pleased that the vision Amanda and her team have implemented will better reflect that in the marketplace; it lets us partner bigger and smarter, and offer greater cultural impact for advertisers."

Hill agreed, noting: "Attention is the scarcest commodity in the world and everyone is looking for audience. In the face of this, our mission is to be different, diversified, and necessary; to be seen as not just TV Networks, but a portfolio of Culture Brands" that will use that "powerful storytelling" to create a connection across multiple audiences and 'always on' distribution touchpoints.

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