Cable music channels have long been a haven for creative talent. The likes of MTV and VH-1 have been responsible for launching not only the careers of musicians and video directors, but also those of the animators and motion graphics artists responsible for creating the interstitial elements between the various non-stop videos and programmes.
So when fuse, a music television channel aimed at "media-savvy, tech-loving music fans" wanted to promote itself on the web, it turned to top new media agency Juxt Interactive for expert help.
Fuse was looking to market the channel to the US cable providers in order to make it more freely available. Because the same cable providers also served as ISPs, fuse was looking for the opportunity to promote the channel through the cable company's website portals, which were often set as the default homepage for those who used the service.
According to Todd Purgason, Juxt Interactive's creative director, fuse wanted to provide a "fun, music-focused, immersive experience" to promote the channel, so his agency was approached to pitch some ideas for a promotional website.
"To be honest, I was super busy when this project came up, so I rifled off four concepts that I thought were unique and interesting," says Purgason, whose first idea was inspired by his love for the rock genre AOR. "I wanted to wrap the whole website in Steve Perry's [lead singer of Journey] hair and use large noses all over the site. And when users rolled over the logo they would hear Steve Perry singing Don't Stop Believin'."
For legal reasons, Juxt Interactive couldn't run with this first idea, so instead the agency developed one of Purgason's alternative concepts - 'Just for the 'F' of it', a surreal world populated entirely by a group of characters and objects whose names began with the letter F.
The big idea
Juxt Interactive began to flesh out ideas, developing information architecture and wire frames for the website. The main features would be the featured band, daily downloadable clips from the channel and the fuse fun zone, which would feature a range of downloadable Flash games.
With a skeleton structure in place, Juxt looked at various graphical treatments for the site's design, opting for a cartoon style reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's Monty Python skits, developed by one of Juxt's art directors working on a Nestea Ice campaign.
"Because both Nestea Ice and fuse were targeted towards the same type of audience we were familiar with that humour and solid style of work," says Purgason. But historically, Purgason and Juxt Interactive were known for a less illustrative style: "We used to be associated with punk distressed treatments," says Purgason. "I was really into typography and texture and a collage type of style."
But all this changed with a site created for Jimmy McGrath Photography (www.jimmymcgrathphoto.com). "We tasked ourselves with creating 50 unique illustrations. After doing this project and personally working on 28 of those illustrations, I just fell in love with the process. Now when we do work we just can't help ourselves - illustration gives you so many unique options."
Juxt Interactive came up with two characters that would appear throughout the website with alliterative names in keeping with the 'Just for the 'F' of it' concept. "Everybody loves a good mascot or two," says Purgason. "And how can you go wrong with Fran§ois the French Ferret and the Fugly Fairy?"
These characters became the key to one of the site's main hooks, 'the free fluff' - a series of hidden extras found on further exploration. Secreted throughout the site are 11 different bits of 'fluff', including desktop images, stickers and samples of music from the featured bands.
The team is now planning to add further content. "We did phase one in just over a month, and phase two is under development," says Purgason.
Phase two, which launches in mid- March, will feature Fuseball, a Flash-based table football game. "You Brits love your soccer," says Purgason, "so hopefully this game will be a hit in the UK."
For Juxt Interactive, projects such as 'Just for the 'F' of it' also mark a change in the way the agency tackles strategy and content. "We now have clients coming to us with an objective. Whether it is an illustration, an animation, a video or a game, we think it up, plan it out, design or art direct it and then produce it."