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Razorfish to Handle Online, Offline Branding Effort for German TV Network

Interactive shop Razorfish will lead a massive, mixed-media rebranding campaign for one of Germany's largest broadcasters, through terms of an agreement announced Thursday.

The work for Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, or ZDF, entails Razorfish not only handling the network's online branding, but corporate identity work as well as brand development for the network's on-air programming.

It's clearly a major win for Razorfish, which also has done work for Fox, PBS and NBC. But it's also likely to be a sizable effort.

ZDF is one of Germany's two major television broadcast networks, and like its competitor, ARD, ZDF is publicly funded. Prior to the legalization of German cable TV in the 1980's, the networks enjoyed an effective monopoly and have had to do little in terms of marketing or branding.

That changed with the advent of cable TV in Germany. In large part, the networks since have had to play catch-up to compete with an onslaught of new players with alternative programming and flashy brand identities.

Razorfish's team, headed by executive producer and client partner Maribeth Phillips, executive creative director Bob English, and senior strategist Karl Cluck, thus is charged with the task of helping ZDF brand itself and its TV and Web offerings. The new brand will be something "contemporary" and "sophisticated," while remaining consistent across ZDF's multiple content platforms.

"We want to emphasize the network's commitment to maintaining its reputation for being at the forefront of the new media revolution," said Lee Hunt, head of Razorfish's media and entertainment practice. "As ZDF is one of the first German networks to establish an online presence, we are truly excited to help further enhance their role as a sophisticated and modern leader in their field."

The branding effort is high-profile work in another sense: government-funded ventures like ZDF (TV-owning households in Germany pay a monthly fee to support the networks) typically are subject to a high level of scrutiny.

But like its partner, ZDF is optimistic about the work.

"Our goal is to provide a fresh look and feel for our overall brand; our on-air presence, Web site, corporate identity, materials, and potential future platforms -- enabling us to maintain our loyal audience while attracting new and younger viewers," said ZDF spokesman Phillipp Baum. "We decided to collaborate with Razorfish on this expansive project because we felt confident that they could maintain the integrity, brand equity and traditional values of our quality programming."

Billings were not disclosed for the work, which is slated for a June launch. Nevertheless, it's a sizable validation for Razorfish. Like many of its competitors, the firm has been suffering from slipping revenues as offline marketers trim their budgets in the current tough economic climate, and as dot-com clients continue to fall out.

And, as income from Web design and integration efforts slow to a trickle, expanding into the traditional areas of brand consulting might be a good idea for Razorfish, as it seeks to gain credibility with -- and increased consideration in the marketing budgets of -- offline clients.

"We are honored to have been selected by ZDF to direct the design and development of such an extensive rebranding project," said Razorfish's English. "Because of ZDF's position as one of Germany's most prestigious broadcasters, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to establish a long standing relationship with the company."

The news also bodes well for Razorfish's presence in the region, which recently suffered the resignations of two members of its European management team.