Wednesday, June 20, 2018
  • Monday, Jun. 19, 2017
A New Sense of Identity For AICP
The simple but bold new flag of the AICP.
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Just about a couple of weeks ago, the best our industry has to offer in terms of creativity, branding, marketing and storytelling came to the fore at the AICP Show and Next Awards, with deserving work earning inclusion into the archives of the Department of Film at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. Fittingly, another piece of notable branding that tells a story debuted in the midst of all that lauded fare but with a bit less fanfare--a new identity for the AICP, the organization behind the Show and Next competitions.

The AICP unfurled its new flag, which succeeds the red box symbol that had been an industry fixture for 45 years. While a new look and identity for AICP had been discussed on and off for many years, the only tangible related update until now came with the creation of the logo for the Next Awards (in 2008) which signaled a notable diversification beyond the AICP core of commercialmaking into the brave new world of online creativity, integrated campaigns, social, mobile, experiential, longer form content and now VR. Still, though, this new identity was more for Next and did not fully reflect how the AICP itself evolved over the years.

While it retains certain qualities depicted in the red box, the brand new organizational symbol is strikingly different visually and in its boldness. Also the red box rested side by side with the words “Association of Independent Commercial Producers, Inc.” That designation has been removed for the new flag in part because the AICP initials have collectively become a brand unto itself and the “Commercial” label is a bit limiting as the group’s members have spread their wings to include varied forms of content in addition to spots.

As for the qualities which carry over to the new logo, there’s a sense of community which had been embodied in the red box, also known as the “house.” The new flag too is emblematic of a home in which reside assorted independent companies that have united to stand as one. Different iterations of the flag are possible. For example during the recent AICP Week Base Camp, there was a video wall in which work from the Next Awards VR shortlist--reflecting the creative range and wherewithal of the AICP community--appears in each of the individual letters A, I, C and P. “Our community can literally live within the letters of the logo,” said Matt Miller, AICP president and CEO, who noted that it will be decided on a case-by-case basis when and what imagery will be placed inside the letters of the logo.

Miller related that over the past two years a detailed process of defining how the AICP has evolved and what it stands for went into the development of the new identity. Miller, AICP board members, AICP chief of staff/VP of operations Kristin Wilcha, and designer Brian Collins of brand consultancy Collins had multiple discussions to help define the essence of the organization’s identity. “Brian pointed out that anyone can make a new logo--but to do so properly and in a relevant manner you need a full examination of your identity,” related Miller. “Only then can you then convey your identity visually--which contributes to the organization being accurately perceived by the members we serve and the various audiences we reach out to, such as the rest of the industry, people in government circles and so on.”

For example, AICP’s self-examination yielded the importance of the word “Independent” to current, would-be and future members. The AICP performs many tasks to aid and assist small indie companies. The independent element stands for the idea that the AICP provides services, expertise and value to small companies that don’t maintain large legal staffs or business affairs departments. “We offer them services in these and other areas,” said Miller. “We provide them with a collective voice and representation. We wanted our new identity to reflect that strength and a renewed commitment of resolve for our community.”

Miller and the AICP gravitated to identity/design leader Collins based in part on past collaborations. Miller and Collins worked as part of the team which devised the 2012 Olympics bid for New York City. They also both served on the VCU Brandcenter board for an extended period. They had talked about the AICP identity over the years and then formally teamed in 2015 to begin the process of creating a new visual identity for the organization.

The importance of craft
While it doesn’t appear alongside the new AICP logo at all times, a line of copy is present when deemed appropriate. Conceived by director Jim Jenkins of O Positive, who’s an accomplished writer in his own right, the accompanying descriptive phrase helping to define AICP simply reads: “where communication meets craft.”

Miller observed, “What we stand for and the space we as an organization uniquely occupy led to the idea of craft. What the AICP battles for is people understanding the value of quality and craft. It’s at the very core of our membership. It separates our companies and talent from the rest. We craft visual communication in a way that has a quality and level of sophistication that is unequaled anywhere.”

The AICP’s new identity was rolled out on June 5, the kick-off day for 2017 AICP Week in NYC, a celebration of advertising in the motion image, which also included the debut of the AICP Next Awards at The Tishman Auditorium at the New School, the AICP Show at MoMA, and the AICP Week Base Camp. During the course of AICP Week, the organization’s new identity was on display and seen in many forms including titles for the AICP Show and animated articulations (from Trollback+Company), the AICP Show sponsor tribute (created by Taylor James), invitations, tickets and program materials (from Ahoy) and Base Camp graphics (from The Studio).

The new identity along with greater functionality (such as improved searchability and calendar functions) are also reflected in the AICP website ( which was fully redesigned and restructured by Effie Samios and her team at IMC. 

Reflecting culture
Beyond being attentive to the feedback generated by the debut of AICP’s new visual identity, Miller also closely observed the body of work honored at the AICP Show and Next Awards. Relative to themes this year, he assessed, “It used to be we’d put cause marketing and PSAs in a corner or category. But now with the Show and Next Awards, we see that brands have decided to find their voices, creating stories and engagement over things that really matter, that can have an effect and not just entertain.”

Miller continued, “We’re not seeing as much funny for the sake of being funny. I watched the Show several times and at first thought this is so heavy and dark. But then you see how engaging and interesting the work is from a craft and message perspective. I had people come up to me after the Show and say it was the best Show ever. It was an amazing, emotional display of work.”

In that vein, Miller noted, “Our Show and the Next Awards show that our industry and advertising reflect culture. There was a level of seriousness that is in sync with what people feel within the country and around the world. Brands and our industry are able to tap into that, and articulate the culture.”