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Readers: 'I Want My MTV' Back From Snooki

Rejiggered Logo Triggers Outpouring of Emotion From Readers, Creatives; Here's a Historical Perspective

By Published on . 4

LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- The redesign of MTV's iconic logo did away with its 28-year-old "Music Television" tagline and spawned an outpouring of discussion last week among the creative community and a host of people commenting on AdAge.com.

'JERSEY SHORE': Redesigned logo can accommodate most reality stars.
'JERSEY SHORE': Redesigned logo can accommodate most reality stars.
The new logo, created in-house but based on the original design by illustrator Frank Olinsky, features the casts of shows such as "Jersey Shore" and "Teen Mom" but has little emphasis on the music that helped brand the channel in the '80s with its signature "I want my MTV" campaign.

Comments posted on AdAge.com railed against MTV for abandoning its roots, while some offered that MTV's logo update is just a natural progression for cable TV branding over the last five years. Chris DiAlfredi of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, wrote, "I now have (and pay for!) 200 stations of crap with networks that don't even try to live up to their brand promises, or even their names -- obviously biased news networks, Sci-Fi that's now SyFy (WTF?!?) and should just be called COC -- Cheap Original Crap."

Several offered their own new taglines. "How about 'Meh TV?'" said Dennis Hoffman of Long Beach, Calif.

MTV defended its choice, explaining that the logo is a reflection of its years-in-the-making brand evolution as a youth-oriented network that's always trying to keep up with the cultural zeitgeist. "Music is still at the center of so much of what we do, but we've really expanded what that means," said Stephen Friedman, MTV's general manager. "We needed the logo to be flexible enough to have the artists within it but also the stars of our shows. It's an updating that speaks to this audience in a much simpler, bolder way."

After going through the 115 comments on AdAge.com, we also polled some notable creatives for thoughts on the "new" MTV, including "I want my MTV" creator George Lois:

"I always had something in the logo [when I was working for MTV]. My idea was something was constantly happening. Sometimes I'd use a flat image of David Bowie, sometimes a fist coming out of it -- something apropos of what I was doing.

"Part of the ground rules was to have the logo doing something different every time. Looking at this now, it gets back a little bit to where I was, except instead of having talent in there you have visuals of foolish people.

"I think they were trying to have their cake and eat i,t too. They're saying pretty strongly 'We're no longer music television.' But at the same time they're keeping the MTV logo, basically -- [even though] I don't know what 'M' means any more.

"I don't think what they did is wrong. I think what they're doing is strategic. And it just proves to me that MTV is dead."

MTV TIMELINE

Three decades of surprises

AUG. 1, 1981: MTV launches to 2.5 million subscribers with reworked footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing featuring a flag with its Frank Olinsky-designed logo planted in the center.


MARCH 1982: The George Lois-created "I want my MTV" campaign rolls out, featuring artists such as David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper and Mick Jagger urging consumers to demand their local cable company carry the fledgling music network. By 1984, MTV's subscriber base would soar from 2.5 million at launch to 25.4 million.


SEPT. 14, 1984: MTV premieres its signature Video Music Awards, which would go on to become the channel's highest-rated annual event. Madonna performs "Like a Virgin" and writhes on stage in a wedding gown.

FEBRUARY 1985: MTV is in the black for the first time, with revenue rising from $27.7 million in 1983 to $42 million in 1984 and profits of $4.5 million in the fourth quarter, banking more ad revenue than any other cable network at the time.

NOVEMBER 1985: Street artist and AIDS activist Keith Haring makes a guest VJ appearance, painting the network's set and reinterpreting the network's signature logo.

MARCH 1989: Madonna's "Like a Prayer" video premieres and creates such a stir with its controversial religious imagery that Pepsi drops her as a spokeswoman.


MARCH 1992: "The Real World" premieres and goes on to become MTV's longest-running original series, launching 23 (and counting) subsequent series.


JULY 1996: MTV's first feature film, "Joe's Apartment," starring Jerry O'Connell, debuts in theaters. It tanks with a $4.6 million domestic gross. Later releases "She's All That," "Varsity Blues" and "Save The Last Dance" would eventually make the division a marketable success.

SEPTEMBER 1997: MTV's Times Square studios open. A year later, Carson Daly would host the first episode of "Total Request Live," which became a cultural sensation in 1999 until the teen-pop bust of 2002. After several attempts to revive the franchise, MTV would cancel the series in 2008 and eventually opted not to renew its lease on the studio at the end of 2009.


MARCH 2002: "The Osbournes" premieres and turns into an instant reality-TV phenomenon, becoming MTV's highest-rated series ever and, improbably, relaunching the career of Ozzy Osbourne. The celebreality show would pave the way for the network's similar "Newlyweds," with Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson, as well as countless celeb-driven shows on VH1, E! and Bravo.


FEB. 1, 2004: Janet Jackson becomes synonymous with the words "wardrobe malfunction" during the MTV-produced halftime show at Super Bowl XXXVIII, unleashing an FCC battle with CBS that finally resolved itself -- for now -- last year. MTV has not been invited back to the Super Bowl since.


MAY 31, 2006: "Laguna Beach" spinoff "The Hills" premieres and creates a new type of reality TV, putting real-life, young Hollywood 20-somethings in scripted scenarios. The series would become the only major hit on MTV's lineup after the network suffers a ratings slump post-"Osbournes" and "Newlyweds."

DEC. 31, 2007: MTV ad revenue reaches an all-time high, finishing the year with $1.014 billion in measured ad spending, according to SNL Kagan. That total drops nearly 10% to $927.6 million in 2008, and another 10% to $815.1 million in 2009.

DEC. 3, 2009: "Jersey Shore" reverses years of ratings declines and becomes MTV's most-watched new series in three years. Although the show sparks lots of buzz and fandom over characters such as The Situation and Snooki, advertisers don't share the same affinity -- sponsors American Family Insurance, Dell and Domino's Pizza pull out within the first few weeks.


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