Andrew Mickel’s Big Idea: Dave

Channel Dave: cuddly home of laugh-out-loud repeats, or a masterclass in PR management? You decide...

TV channel names used to make sense. You took your company name, and stuck a number or an easy-to-recognise genre title on the end. All of the most successful brands of recent times have stuck to this simple rule. Granada Talk. The Carlton Food Network. TV Travel Shop 2. You’ve just got to stick to the rules.

And then crazy Dave came along and ripped up the rule book. Well, it was less a rule book and more a napkin with a couple of bullet points scrawled on it with biro, but still: we all understand the subtle context that Dave is a loveable rogue.

Dave, the thinking supposedly went, is a good name for a channel because ‘everyone knows someone called Dave’. The problems with such thinking are myriad. Not everyone knows someone called Dave. There are lots of other names that people are more likely to know someone with– Matthew, Sarah, James. If a mass murderer turns up in the next few years called Dave, then the channel bosses are going to have to redo all their stationery with ‘James’ across the top, which is going to make it sound like television’s first interactive butler.

Dave is not so much a marketing triumph so much as a prolonged recovery exercise by UKTV to have a channel for youngish folk back on our screens. The content of Dave, as has been pointed out by every man and his dog, is barely different to its predecessor. That was UKTV G2, a channel that thanks to the clunking fist of ‘marketing genius’, sounded more like a registration plate that a realistic viewing option.

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That’s why Dave itself is now hailed as ‘marketing genius’, repackaging the same old Top Gear and quizcom reruns in new clothing. Yes, the channel’s share has sky-rocketed since rebranding, but the success is in the most part because it bumped UKTV History from Freeview’s evening slot. It’s nice that dowdy old UKTV G2 got dressed up for its Freeview launch, but it’s still the same repeats under the floral print. And if that’s true, then this is the very opposite of ‘marketing genius’: this is genius from the PR wing of UKTV, covering up the enormous cock-ups by marketing for not having pensioned off lifeless UKTV G2 a long time ago.

What makes the whole exercise even more daft is that the channel is almost back to the content it used to carry when it was funky old Play UK, which is was before becoming UK G2 (which it was before UKTV G2. Come on, keep up). The only difference is that now there is less music (boo) and more cars (more boo). Incidentally, that would be the same Play UK that was shut down by UKTV seven years before some ‘marketing genius’ created Dave.

Seeing as Dave’s daytime is already full of TOTP2 repeats, why not just shove in some proper music programming like in the good old days? They won’t have to scratch their heads too hard to come up with ideas. Play used to have a spin-off from shoddy BBC2 youth show The O Zone called The Phone Zone. Now that’s the kind of ‘marketing genius’ that Dave should aspire to now.

Andrew has a new Big Idea every Thursday. Read the last one here.