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eyeball Gives New York Radio Station WNYC a Fresh New Sound

eyeball, 3 years, 10 months ago

Leading public radio station taps creative agency to develop a new audio identity

eyeball Gives New York Radio Station WNYC a Fresh New Sound

WNYC, New York’s top broadcaster and producer of award-winning public radio content, has just debuted a holistic audio rebrand for its New York City-based radio stations, 93.9 FM and AM 820. Spearheaded by President and CEO Laura Walker and Chief Content Officer Dean Cappello, this project was brought to life by WNYC’s agency of record, eyeball.                       

As a creative strategic design agency, eyeball frequently executes complete rebrands for major television networks that have included Ovation, PBS and, most recently, Oxygen. eyeball is also a pioneer in the field of audio branding, a strategic approach to communicating brand values through sound. The challenge from WNYC presented a unique opportunity for the agency to combine its core competencies into a comprehensive set of audio assets and recommendations.

Perennially among the most listened-to public radio stations in the U.S., WNYC produces a plethora of award-winning nationally-distributed programs and podcasts, including  “On the Media," and “Freakonomics Radio.” The innovative radio producers decided it was time to revamp their approach to interstitial content, and enlisted trusted collaborators eyeball to amplify and execute their vision.   

“WNYC produces some of the worlds best audio content,” says eyeball Executive Creative Director Alex Moulton. “Their incredible team works hard to craft programming that is engaging and relevant, with top-notch production values. To make this project a success, we knew we would have to conceive interstitial content that meets the high-water mark set by their amazing shows.

The first step in this project was a complete brand audit wherein the agency explored every facet of WNYC and ideated extensively with executives and staffers from every department about what was working and what could be improved upon. Laura Walker and Dean Cappello guided the process to ensure that eyeball supported WNYC’s objectives. By including key stakeholders early in the conversation, eyeball ensured that their recommendations and creative executions would integrate smoothly into WNYC’s existing process.

Through these interviews and further strategic exploration, eyeball identified key brand attributes that WNYC’s new audio identity should communicate. It needed to reflect the relevant and forward-thinking nature of their programming and support the goal of widening their appeal to younger audiences. It needed to capture the vibrancy and eclecticism of New York City. It needed to reflect the station’s position as innovators in the industry and their commitment to hard-hitting enterprise journalism.

To expand upon these themes, eyeball wrote a large number of promo scripts to serve as best practice reference for WNYC producers. The agency also conceived a new tagline for the station, “Just Keep Listening,” a twist on the agency’s popular campaign for WNYC, “Never Turn It Off.” Moulton explains, “We all fell in love with it because it effectively says, ‘Just wait, the best is yet to come.’”

One of the key issues that WNYC raised during the brand audit was a desire for a strong, unified voice that would reflect the personality of the station. This voice would have to sound youthful, approachable, savvy, and intelligent. eyeball recommended Scarlett Johansson, a native New Yorker and fan of the station, and was delighted when she agreed to lend her enchanting voice to the project. “Scarlett inflected personality into each take to make all the IDs unique and engaging; yet they're all cohesive and really embody the new sound of WNYC.” says Moulton.

WNYC was eager to develop an audio logo that would clearly identify their brand and content across platforms. eyeball created a musical interpretation of WNYC’s visual logo , representing the iconic cityscape/graphic equalizer by assigning pitches to correspond with each bar height. Each of the four sounds is a distinct chord, rhythmically syncopated and layered with an eclectic mix of sounds to reflect a wide range of programming and the diversity of New York City. eyeball then produced a bespoke toolkit that would afford WNYC the flexibility to mix this audio logo into music beds in any key, at any tempo. 

Another request that arose during the audit was the need for WNYC to update its background music selection process. eyeball produced a package of ten original, forward-thinking tracks, each tagged with the new audio logo. These music beds, combined with Johansson’s VO and the new audio logo, comprise a new system of cross-platform IDs, including the digital stream and new WNYC app.  Seeking to reflect the rhythm of the listeners’ everyday lives, eyeball assigned the original music to different day parts depending on the mood of the compositions. They also created a new collaborative workflow to regularly update a curated playlist of new, innovative music for WNYC to use in their productions.

Finally, to organically integrate their creative executions and strategic recommendations, eyeball created an extensive style guide for WNYC, including guidelines for everything from script writing to voice casting to music selection. It also includes strategies for smoothing out the production process. Armed with all of these new assets, WNYC is now in an excellent position to raise the bar even higher in the field of public radio production.  

“WNYC is truly exceptional in the media landscape, standing for journalistic value and community." concludes Moulton. “Collaborating closely with their entire team was a wonderful experience. Laura Walker and Dean Cappello had a clear vision for the initiative and took on a strong leadership role. Senior Marketing Director Theodora Kuslan and Program Director Jaqueline Cincotta were also integral in guiding the process. Everyone at WNYC inspired us to produce what we feel is a very special audio package.”

We’re known for the quality of both our content and our production, the way it makes you feel,” says Dean Cappello.  This project was really about making sure that everything you hear from us – from station identification to weather to promotion – meets that same high bar, has the same magic and impact you expect from a show like Radiolab.  We’ve had the pleasure of working with eyeball on visual branding and on-air promotion campaigns and knew that they’d be the right partners to take on this challenge, a challenge that public radio has not really taken on.  And I can say from the early results, eyeball continues to make a big difference for us and our listeners.

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Category: Publications and media , Tv and radio

Genre: Music & Sound Design