Viridian Note 00225: Reddy Kilowatt Makeover

"Bruce Sterling" <>
Monday, January 29, 2001 12:44 PM


Key concepts
utility mascots, public relations, Viridian Design contests

Attention Conservation Notice: It's another in our continuing series of design contests.

some other design contests that pay a lot better than we Viridians do, courtesy of those fine folks at

Reddy Kilowatt

(((Electrical utilities are old. Even their mascots are well past retirement age. That fabulous icon of electric utility service, "Reddy Kilowatt," was designed way back in 1925, by an Alabama industry booster and electro-promotional specialist, Ashton B. Collins.

(((The electro-humanoid Reddy has received a number of graphic rethinks over the decades. Ashton's original primitive Reddy was a very peculiar, multi-armed Shiva creature.)))

Reddy's dad and a Viridian spiritual ancestor, Ashton B. Collins, Sr.
Reddy used to be quite the electro-babe electro- magnet.
Reddy's so old-fashioned that he still promotes smoking. The poor guy is totally smokestack-dependent!
Reddy has some downmarket veteran pals, too: the eerie "Danny Thunderbolt" and the rural hick "Willie Wirehand." Danny and Willie still show up at cattle- calls, but they can't buy themselves an honest gig on a TV commercial.

(((Reddy also had a prolonged and scandalous dalliance with nuclear power, back in its glamor days. More recently, Reddy was purchased by the Northern States Power Co., and provided with an upstart nephew, "Reddy Flame," who shills for the natural gas industry.

(((With his energy-hog lightbulb nose and his original, short-prone earplugs, Reddy has been quite the global icon. He's been used by hundreds of utilities worldwide. He was "Don Kilovatio" in Spain, "Zet Kilowatt" in Brazil, and "Le Bon Genie de L'Electricite" in Belgium. In Cuba, Fidel Castro had Reddy liquidated as a class enemy.

(((Today, Reddy is incinerating the planet Earth. If

Reddy doesn't go green, we're going to fry. This bleak
situation demands a brand-new Reddy == in fact, two new

(((The first is Reddy as Reddy really exists in today's utility environment. "Servant of mankind," my eye! The guy is flatulent with overpriced gas! He's dissolute! Rusty! Careless! On the take! An environmental war criminal bloated with windfall profits, a sucker for every political fundraiser in DC or the state capitals! Reddy, for shame!

(((The second Reddy is a total Viridian Reddy rethink: Greeny Megawatt! With-it! Sexy! Consumer-friendly! Ultra-designed! Renewable and pro-survival!

(((Yes, I know that the immediate urge of our many

contestants will be to do that leprous, Adbusters version
of Reddy. Because Reddy deserves it == chainsmoking
his big-coal cigars, prone to alcoholic Stage Three
blackouts, grossly obese and laid up in the OPEC drunk-
tank! But folks == that version is the easy one.
That pitch is not going to get us off the hook.

(((Give some mature thought to our serious need for a consumer-friendly Greeny Megawatt. Utility networks are not going away. They are far less likely to disappear than Florida, Bangladesh, Holland and the polar ice caps. Today, we face the same promotional need that the immortal Ashton Collins rose to meet in 1925. We need an imaginative, attractive, humanizing icon for a sophisticated 21st century cybergreen cyberutility.

(((Mind you, we Viridians do not plan to infringe on the exclusive merchandising rights to Reddy Kilowatt, possessed by Northern States Power. Reddy is almost as old as Mickey Mouse and therefore, just like Mickey Mouse, Reddy probably belongs by right in the public domain, but, well, tell it to Disney lobbyists. Our Viridian Makeover

of Reddy Kilowatt is a legally protected parody, all
right? It's funny, it's an act of satirical humor.
We promise that we won't do Reddy any harm ==
at least, no more than Northern Power did when they
removed his classic insulating rubber booties
and gave him, ugh, velcro joggers.

(((So: redesign Reddy Kilowatt, and place this image on a webpage where the rest of us can see it. Send me the address and I will post it to the Viridian List. The winning design will be the one which creates the most

severe cognitive dissonance when it comes to traditional
utilities == the fresh and innovative Reddy design that
makes a naive passerby stop dead and say, "Whoa! Check
that electro-dude out! Electricity is an entirely
different world now!"

(((The winner of the Reddy Kilowatt Makeover Contest receives a coveted and attractive "REDDY KILOWATT Bobble Head Statuette!" A proven treat! Yes, we have one of these bobbling Reddys here at the Viridian Vatican, where Reddy has provoked much admiring comment, especially last Christmas when we had him riding a windmill bareback.))) Links: Wobblers on the Web

This contest ends on March 20, 02000, the first day of Spring.

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