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BtoB Top Marketer: Beth Comstock, General Electric Co.

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Beth Comstock returned to her post as senior VP-CMO of General Electric Co. in March, after spending two years as president of integrated media at GE division NBC Universal. Since then, she has overseen several major global marketing initiatives at GE, as well as increased use of digital media to tell the company's story. “At the top of the list was the Olympics—it was a great team effort,” Comstock said. GE, a worldwide partner of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, used the games as a global platform to show how it is developing environmentally friendly solutions in health care, technology and energy, particularly in emerging markets. “It was a great way to build our brand in China, and also a way to source some of our products into Beijing and other cities as they are building out,” Comstock said. Beyond brand-building through TV commercials and advertising efforts around the Olympics, GE developed a new enterprise sales organization to handle the Olympics' huge infrastructure projects—such as a rainwater recycling system and energy-efficient turbines to power the Olympic Green area. GE generated nearly $1 billion in sales from Olympics projects, and it is now planning to take its enterprise sales model to other global projects, including the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and the 2012 London Olympics. Another big initiative for Comstock was the continuation of GE's “ecomagination” campaign, which shows how the company is committed to developing products to solve environmental problems. “We've rolled out "ecomagination' region by region and have focused in specific regions, including China and Australia,” she said. “We can see awareness and sales increases based on what we've done with "eco.' ” GE worked with its agency of record, BBDO New York, on several new “ecomagination” ads this year, one of which won the Grand CEBA Award from American Business Media. Comstock, who is committed to increasing GE's use of digital media and marketing, led the development of several new-media projects for GE this year. “About 15% of our media spend is on digital. In my mind, that is not enough,” she said. “One of my goals is to continue to shift that spend.” Under Comstock's direction, GE's marketing team used more online platforms, such as webisodes and streaming video within banner ads, to tell its story. For example, it shot 14 webisodes in locations around the world—seven technology stories and seven Olympic stories—that ran on its Web site and on such media properties as AOL, CNN, MSN and Yahoo. The webisodes had captured more than 32 million viewers as of Sept. 1. In addition, GE pioneered a new online ad format in March, using live streaming video within a banner ad to deliver a webcast of GE Chairman-CEO Jeff Immelt presenting the company's annual report. —K.M.
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