What the Hell Is MTV’s New Rebrand About?

I feel like I watched three minutes of GIFs or just did a speed run through MoMA.

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Jun 25 2015, 7:15pm

There's something to be said about MTV's longevity in a time where ephemerality reigns supreme and everything is available at a mouse's click rather than a push of a TV remote.

But here's a shout from the ether of the television world: MTV announced its TV rebranding today, with a three-minute video containing a smattering of motion art that's manically-paced to the point of ineffability. It's also a ride through some of its shorts (which they've commissioned a couple artists to do) and some of its newer TV programming.

Take a look:

It's another major rebrand after its last in 2010, and it's one that's done away with a long-standing slogan: instead of the iconic "I want my MTV!" that a generation's grown up with since the 80s, it's now "I am my MTV," perhaps as a gesture to the current generation's movement toward self-examination, identity politics, and apparent narcissism.

There's a clear sort of aesthetic that MTV is culturing: pastel-swatched, bad 3D modeling, and visual features drawn directly from Tumblr-born microcultures. The art direction is a wink to the current generation's backwards-looking interest in the software aesthetics of yore.

"One of the interesting things [the team had to think about when rebranding] was 'how can we make sure that we rebrand the channel, but in a way that we can refresh it constantly, so we're not stuck to a certain look and feel that will look old in six months?" Sean Saylor, VP of creative and marketing at MTV told the Creative Review.

Interestingly, it's riding on the coattails of seapunk, a Tumblr microculture which had its peak in 2013. That's not to say visual trends simply peak and die off immediately—vaporwave, another microculture is still going through phases of popularity—but that MTV is suddenly bargaining its brand image on some years-old trends while committing to "refreshing constantly" seems to be at odds.

The rebrand comes at a time when MTV has been struggling with declining interest; it's lost its dominance in music videos, with competitors like Vevo watermarking most videos and and making them largely available on YouTube, where around 40 percent of users view music-related videos. But MTV hasn't stayed toothless. Viacom, MTV's parent company, has been raising copyright disputes over YouTube videos and has been engaging in litigious territory-marking with Google since 2007. Of course, lawsuits aren't enough to bring MTV back into relevance to a younger audience that's cutting cords in droves.

But maybe a wholesale rebranding might. It at least tells us MTV is still in the game, and that it's still paying massive attention to the sorts of visual cultures and shorter content that would appeal to a younger audience.

Maybe for once I'll watch something MTV-related that's not the VMAs.