3/16/09

A Welsh semi-conductor manufacturer?

If it weren't so sad, this would be funny.

Aw, hell. It is funny, sad or not. Apparently NBC-Universal's Sci-Fi Channel will celebrate the end of all the quality shows that made them special by incomprehensibly -- and unpronounceably -- rebranding as the Syfy Channel.

Heh?

Mocking the new name is almost too easy. Really -- how do you pronounce it? Did no one tell the brain trust at Landor Associates that a "y" used as a vowel in the middle of a word does not carry the same pronunciation as the "i" in Sci(ence)? Is it Seefy? Sewfeye? Sifee? I can't help thinking of the Welsh word "tydr" -- pronounced "tudor" -- as in the actual Tudors. Surely Sufee is not what they had in mind?

But the idiotic name itself is only the tip of the goodbye-channel-I-once-loved iceberg here...

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network.


This was the problem, for which the new name...

"...made us feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise."

Ahhh. They hate their audience. Now if I were a sci-fi loving guy, I'd be real insulted right about now. As it happens, I'm a sci-fi loving girl...

Guess what? Still insulted.

But then, NBC-Universal leadership are the beautiful people who brought us the “mean, ugly nerds” quote when referring to the striking WGA writers. And who made such a badge of honor of their lack of comic-book knowledge while they drove Heroes into the reef of its-a-genre-show-it-doesn’t-need-to-be-good dumb choices.


Why don’t they just re-label it the PROM Channel and be done with us? They’ll lose their entire audience, but hey – they’ll be cool.

And no, I didn’t go to my prom. I went to a geek high school. No one went to prom. I may have compounded the error by playing D&D with my (mostly male) friends on that night instead. Or maybe we were watching Star Trek re-runs. ‘Cause yes, I like my Fi with a little Sci.

But I am not such an uncomplicated (and clearly unwanted) demographic as the suits at NBC-Universal might think. I also loved the Sex & The City movie. I watch Grey’s Anatomy. Clueless is my go-to all-time favorite I-could-watch-it-on-an-endless-loop fun time. And sometimes I watch that makeover montage in The Devil Wears Prada where she gets to wear all the pretty clothes over and over and over again. Pretty clothes... sigh.

In fact, I like LOTS OF THINGS. Quality things. Well-done things with character and imagination and something important to say (even if it’s just “awesome boots can pick you up when you’re feeling blue”).

So marketing guys, this is ME: I earn money. I spend money. I am susceptible to good advertising. I love well-done Sci-Fi. AND I AM NOT THAT UNUSUAL. Or uncool.

Except, apparently, on the new SyFy Channel. Though, as of this Friday, I'm not sure what I'd be watching on that channel anyway.

Guys, you don't need a new name. You need new shows. And no, your much-hyped entry (Moonlighting plus The X-Files plus Indiana Jones) does not sound particularly good -- or remotely hip, cool or cutting edge. I haven't read the pilot. Maybe it is. I hope it is. But just from the description I can kinda see the show already in my mind. And I'm kinda over it.

On a final, personal note -- when I was first told of the new name from a Facebook friend, I thought it was a hoax. I should have known better...

Some years ago I worked for one of these expensive re-branding firms in New York. The big client was Woolworth's, as it turned out on the hunt for a way to turn a slow, downward spiral into a free-fall plummet. I wasn't actively working on that account, but I remember seeing the materials laid out for the final client pitch -- the name "Venator Group" highlighted on one of the boards, among a number of equally silly made-up words. I laughed, thinking this was the "stupid choices" board after which they would show the client the real, "correct choices" board.

Joke was on me.

Don't you think Woolworth's missed an enormous opportunity to rebrand as... Woolworth's? They could have staked a claim as the "real thing" -- a more upscale Target-type store for the urban masses with a cool vintage feel and a gen-u-ine soda counter in every store. Plus all those awesome downtown Deco locations...

The Venator Group was not long for the world. Let's hope the Syfy channel rethinks before they follow suit.

4 comments:

Ermengrabby said...

Cool, hmm....

Worrying about "cool" is shorthand for "worrying about what other people will think about me."

Cool was important when I was, let me remember, uh, about 17.

Now smart, entertaining, and fun all trump "cool." At least when it comes to spending my precious TV watching time.

I reserve "cool" for things were the point really is to impress other people. Clothes, for example, those should be "cool," also the music I choose for a party. In fact, anything I pick for a party should make me, and everyone at the party, feel "cool."

But my TV -- that I do for fun, not to impress anybody.

eamenes said...

With you on the clothes and the music!

And even though I can see where people want might their entertainment to be "cool" too -- there's still a huge problem with aiming for cool (instead of, say, quality) when making television or movies: what is cool now will almost certainly be dated by the time the show or movie actually airs. You have to be that brilliant person creating what WILL be cool next year to actually ever BE cool next year.

Which is to say -- ignore "cool" entirely and make what you like as well as you can possibly make it. Generally, what winds up being cool is what winds up being surprising and different.

eamenes said...
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Ermengrabby said...

"Cool" is pretty subjective, as well. Recent thread I was following on drinking -- a bunch of ex-alcoholics worrying that people would notice how "uncool" they were now that they weren't drinking. And I'm thinking -- hmm, I NEVER thought the girl who puked up all over the bathroom was particularly "cool." Sad, yes -- and a lot of work if she was my room-mate, but not "cool." But then, she was feeling sorry for me because I stayed sober. So who was "cool?"