I should feel proud. I mean, somehow I must fit into some media buyer’s demographic for GE’s new campaign to recruit college grads. I see and hear the campaign constantly, though my first job was, well, a while back. But the campaign strikes me as an odd one. I find several things to like about it, but I think it creates exactly the image that its creative team is apparently trying to dispel. Here’s Ad Age’s take on it.
The campaign features TV and radio executions that are built around a young guy who seems happy to have just been hired by GE, But in every case, his family and/or friends seem very disappointed, because they clearly picture GE as an old, very industrial giant that is the furthest thing from their expectations for “Owen”, our hot young Internet developer.
In TV spots, they seem confused, and don’t understand his explanation of developing a language that will help machines communicate. In one silly overreach, a group fawns over another guy (Owen’s brother?) who is working on a stereo-typically vapid smartphone app that allows you to place hats on animals’ heads. Something much more to their liking.
While the sarcasm certainly paints the friends as shallow, it doesn’t serve to elevate GE in the process. Most of us probably don’t think of GE that much at all – so the constant exposure to people who think it’s an industrial dinosaur simply makes us think they’re probably right. In one annoying radio spot, the newly hired guy has a girlfriend who badgers him to portray his new job as “working on a trendy app” and insists he leave out the “machines” and the “GE” part when they meet her parents that evening. Again, we sure don’t like her much. But again GE is considered an embarrassment.
Now, I GET it. I know that’s the point. I just don’t think it works. And the line that ends most of the spots is “GE. The digital company that’s also an industrial company.” That doesn’t really help. If we have no real image, we don’t know what to think; the whole thing just sounds defensive. And if we do have the old “industrial”perception of GE, we’re not going to change that because you called yourself a “digital” company first.
Find some interesting way to show me “digital.” Show me what you’re doing now. Show me the kinds of things young collegegrads would flock to work on. Then I might believe you. But when you spend most of your 30 or 60 seconds reinforcing an old image, don’t expect “I”ll be working on a language that will help machines talk to one another” to turn that image on its head.
That’s like the United States Postal Service showing complaining customers for 25 seconds and then billing itself as “the hot and innovative messaging service that’s also good old-fashioned snail mail.” Or maybe BP saying “Remember all those horrible things we did in the past? That’s not us NOW!”
Some good acting in the spots, and several nice copy lines, such as when Owen mildly protests that “I’ll be helping transform the way the world works” to no avail against the overbearing cat/hat guy. But I believe the old saying is something like “Thou doth protest too much.” I like the fact that you’re trying, GE. But I never especially thought of you as an old-fashioned industrial company until you planted that seed.