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'Igniters' Fire Up Syfy

The Consumer Electronics Show might seem like an unusual place for a television network to launch a campaign aimed at convincing media buyers that its viewers are hotshots. That is, unless you're Syfy and you've been invited to speak to a gathering of media agency ViviKi's 475 staffers and clients in Las Vegas for CES.

Well beyond the upfronts in the spring, Syfy president David Howe says Syfy plans to spend the next three years talking about "Igniters," viewers who, according to the channel's new research, "find the new," "do the next" and "show the rest." These plugged-in consumers can accelerate the growth of brands, and Syfy has more of these trend-setters than any other television network, says Howe, who insists that's fact, and not fiction—science or otherwise.

"These people are absolutely harnessing their digital finesse to really get the message out and tell other people what's new and what's next, what to buy, what to wear, where to shop, what to eat. And that is a very exciting proposition for an advertiser," Howe says.

Much of the research was conducted by PSFK, a research firm that has worked with Apple and BMW, with data from Simmons, the consumer research firm, which has spotted ways Syfy and its clients can exploit how these Igniters spread the word about things they are interested in. "There are a number of brands out there that are doing innovative things to engage this audience and speak their language," says Jeff Weiner, director of business development at PSFK. "These individuals are not content just to have products and services developed for them. They actually want to participate in the process."

Howe says Syfy will be presenting its research to major advertisers in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and Boston. There will also be a major advertising effort, including a trade campaign using outdoor ads and key publications, promotions within media agencies and a Website, "We're aiming to get some real noise and buzz about this and kind of set the record straight in terms of how valuable the Syfy consumer is," Howe says.

Historically, there has been a perception that science fiction fans are nerdy young men living in their mother's basement. "That's always been a fallacy," says Howe, noting that people who identify themselves as imaginative and creative comprise a large group.

And while many networks also say their audiences have money and influencers—Bravo, like Syfy an NBCUniversal network, calls its viewers Affluencers—Howe says "our audience has even more power in terms of being able to harness technology to spread the word."

Syfy wants these Igniters to boost its business. They watch Syfy shows across the board, particularly Face Off and Being Human, and the network will surely keep them in mind as it adds 10 new reality series. The network will also reinforce its Igniter story at its upfront event.

Last year, Syfy invited clients to a special performance of Spider-Man on Broadway. This year, Howe says, "We will have something visually that's a wow onstage."

But ViviKi, which includes Starcom and MediaVest, got the first look at the research last week. The theme of finding what's new and telling people seemed a good fit for a CES meeting, according to Tracey Scheppach, director of innovations at ViviKi. She is sure Syfy relished the chance to tell its top executives and clients about the Igniters in its viewership. "As we start to look at more addressable advertising, brand advertisers are going to want to surround themselves with viewers that are Igniters," she says.

Scheppach identifies herself as SMG's "chief igniter officer." She adds: "And yes, I do watch Syfy. I do watch a little Jersey Shore too, I have to admit."

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