Until about a year ago, Food Network had made its name as a cooking network full of shows hosted by superstar chefs, and not much else.
While that lineup made Food Network a top-20 network in daytime, the network's loyal fans were fleeing in prime. Something had to be done.
In April 2006, the network told advertisers it was going to overhaul its primetime lineup, bringing in the types of unscripted shows that had worked so well on such competitors as TLC and Bravo.
It fell to VP of Creative Services Greg Neal to introduce viewers to the change and lure them to primetime.
Neal and his team came up with a simple slogan—“Food Network Nighttime: Way More Than Cooking”—and soon enough, it was. The network introduced a primetime lineup with such shows as Ace of Cakes, Dinner Impossible, Throwdown With Bobby Flay and The Next Food Network Star, and they accomplished what the network promised.
“Greg created innovative, witty IDs and exciting, vibrant, hip graphics that made us look a lot more like an NBC, Fox or VH1 than Gourmet magazine,” says Senior VP of Marketing and Creative Services Michael Smith.
Still, Neal took his time informing viewers of the coming change. “If you take a clip reel from January 2006 and then another one from December 2006,” he says, “you'll see a big difference. I used the entire year as a slow progression to chip away at the message.”
The branding needed to be simple and visual. So he and his team took one image—chefs in the kitchen, for example—and used a light pen to “draw” a stage over it, to convey the idea that chefs do not just cook your food but are also artists.
The idea's simplicity is a hallmark of Neal's work, says HGTV President Judy Girard, who was his boss at Scripps' Shop at Home Network in 2004. “He's able to combine business needs with brand needs and come out with something creative, which is unusual.”
New York City-based Neal has been in branding and marketing since graduating from the University of Texas in 1991. He has worked both in-house at Food sibling networks Fine Living and Shop at Home and at independent production studio Another Large Production, Los Angeles.
Married 10 years, he and Tavia Neal have three children: Austin, 5; Bowie, 3; and Atticus, one month.