Jewish World Review Feb. 24, 2004 / 2 Adar, 5764
Hi! I'm Ted! Fly me!
This February, United Airlines launched its new discount carrier, hoping to out-compete rivals Jet Blue and AirTran, with services from Dulles in Washington DC to Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, and Las Vegas. This new offshoot is called "Ted." Uni and Ted. Get it?
John Tague, executive vice president for United's customer relations told AdAge magazine, that "United chose the name Ted to emphasize that the service is an essential, integrated part of the company."
Well, I don't know. I remember Uniroyal's Uni Roy and Al spots from the seventies. Couldn't Ted have just as easily been named Uni? Last year, you'll recall, the Nashville Network, after many trials and tribulations, re-emerged as Spike, the first network for men, allegedly, though I had not been aware that men really lacked a network of their own.
So is this a trend?
I know that companies often name themselves after their founders- Ford, Kellogg, Tupperware, Disney, Warner Brothers, etc. But those were named for their last names, not their first. Imagine, for a moment, that Ted Turner had called his network Ted Classic Movies. It kind of loses its panache doesn't it? And if Disneyland had been Waltland? Well, the undertones of fascism would have become rather explicit, don't you think?
But the bizarre thing is, with Ted Airlines, and Spike Channel - these aren't even real names. These are names plucked from the air, or from focus groups, or wordplay based on the parent company's original name.
Maybe this is a reaction to capitalism's dada overreaching company names of the past twenty years. Names like Unisys, Cisco, Verizon, e-Whatever, AlBenTechTor, Nexium, Viagra-- What do those names mean? Nothing.
On the other hand, frankly, does flying on a plane with a nickname emblazoned on its hull make you feel any safer? As you're forced to remove your shoes at the security checkpoint, does knowing that you are about to board, eventually, the chummiest airplane that ever lived make you feel any safer? Do you even believe, deep in your heart of hears, that the airplane is your friend? I sure don't. No matter what it calls itself. I recommend instead, Fearful Entrepreneurial Airline Reality. FEAR, for short. Truth in advertising?
Well, give me a discount and a speedthrough on the strip search, heck, you can call yourself anything you want as far as I'm concerned.
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JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2003, Ian Shoales