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Super Bowl Ad Tracker: GE Spurns Humor, Touts U.S. Manufacturing and Jobs

Posted by Dale Buss on February 2, 2012 07:13 PM

General Electric isn't exactly countercultural, or contrarian. But with its two ads planned for the Super Bowl on Sunday, GE might actually benefit by being different from the rest of the pack.

You see, GE doesn't plan to use humor, unlike just about every other major brand. One of America's largest industrial conglomerates plans to pull at our heartstrings instead.

GE's commercials feature its plants in Schenectady, N.Y., and Louisville, and speak to the pride GE workers feel being engaged in manufacturing — and manufacturing in America.

The spot set in the New York power-turbines plant, at top, ends with a GE worker saying to a guy in a bar, "We make the power that makes the beer," in an interesting sort of co-branding exercise with Budweiser — which the guy in a bar is drinking. It's an ode to the significance of manufacturing — and a nod to Bud Light, the official beer of the NFL.

The spot set in Louisville is the one that speaks directly to the benefits of manufacturing in America, as GE still does hugely. "We're proving it can be done here and can be done well," one worker says in the ad. Another calls the appliance manufacturing at the plant "something that will bring us back, not only this company, but this country."

"Our goal with the ads was to show in a real and direct way the pride and passion GE employees have for the products they make," GE spokeswoman Leigh Farris told brandchannel. "We actually polled our employees over the last year and this is how they described the culture: GE works to build, power, move and cure the world." The documentary-style ads actually build on an approach that GE used in spots last year set at its diagnostic-equipment operations in Wisconsin and at GE Aviation in North Carolina.

And beginning with Sunday's spots in the Super Bowl, GE plans to launch a broader campaign to support what Farris called "what's working in this country" and spotlighting "what American GE workers are doing to find solutions to our world's most pressing challenges." It will include events in GE-factory towns as well as digital platforms "to get the rest of the country thinking and talking," Farris said, about what she called a "movement."

Notably, none of these ads so far, including the ones scheduled for Super Bowl XLVI, address GE's considerable — and sometimes controversial — investments in various "green-energy' industries such as wind turbines and the new type of light bulbs Americans are having to transition to.

"Our clean energy initiatives are incredibly important to who we are and what we do," Farris explained, "but at this time we wanted to focus on our employees."

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