Fantasy and imagination are more than tools Adam Stotsky uses to peddle his product. For the svp of marketing and creative at the Sci Fi Channel, those illusive qualities are his product. By broadening the sci-fi genre beyond monsters and aliens to fantasy and the supernatural, the channel positions itself as imagination central."Our brief is basically limitless," Stotsky says.
Stotsky, 37, is not the most likely candidate for the task. An account executive for eight years, first at Fallon in Minneapolis and New York, then at JWT New York, he also did a stint at the Discovery Channel before joining Sci Fi in mid-2001. His conversations about the work are still dominated by strategic references. "We don't want our brand identity to be cold, technical and robotic, which is polarizing," he says. "Instead, studies show we can reach a broader segment of the audience by being warm, human and set in the here and now."
Stotsky and his team of 15 creatives craft 10-second spots that ask, "If … ?" by portraying everyday experiences that turn magical. A current spot, "Humansuit," is a 60-second narrative about a man who hates his job. He makes a robotic body for his pooch and sends him to the office, where the dog becomes an overnight corporate success. During brainstorming sessions for the three-year-old "What If?" campaign, digression often bears the best fruit. Ever since Sci Fi offices were moved to Rockefeller Center by parent NBC, staffers have grumbled that it's tough to plow through the sidewalk crowds of tourists. That complaint inspired a January spot that featured a crossing guard stopping traffic by making the cars rise and hover above the street like the warriors in Ang Lee's film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Even for sci-fi, these are not the easiest ideas to sell. "Adam has the patience to go back and back again to persuade the decision makers that something is the right approach," says Dave Howe, Sci Fi general manager. "He can hold his ground and articulate why an idea is working in a nonthreatening way."
Stotsky's group, which also promotes the programming through the same lens of imagination, won a gold Effie in 2003 for a campaign touting the Steven Spielberg-produced miniseries Taken. Stotsky credits Roger Guillen, vp of creative, for having a second sense for pop culture and novel special effects. "We have an amazing filter to see things," he says.
When Sci Fi gets intense, Stotsky clears his head by running or cycling near his Westchester home. "This is a liberating time of my career, balancing both sides of my brain," he says, triggering another tangent. "You know how we've been setting up our promos in the real world? The next place to tap is our dreams."