Actor Hugo Weaving donned the trademark suit and sunglasses of Agent Smith in a General Electric commercial released in April, reviving the iconic villain he played in “The Matrix” to promote the company's Industrial Internet software business.
The spot is the latest installment in a “Brilliant Machines” campaign developed by BBDO New York and introduced by GE last year. The campaign features popular sci-fi characters promoting a world in which data breaks free of its silos, informing decisions and streamlining processes across an enterprise.
The April spot, “Agent of Good: Connected Hospitals” performed well not only on the small screen but also on social media channels, said Jon Lombardo, leader-social media center of excellence at GE. “We make huge investments in TV spots,” he said. “The question is: How do you socialize that?”
For GE, the answer is to build a campaign that leverages the personal nature of social media to build emotional connections. “Acting human on social media is valuable,” Lombardo said. “We make this part of everything that we do.”
Immediately after the Agent Smith spot aired during an episode of “Saturday Night Live,” the social media team replicated his image in promoted messages on Twitter. Agent Smith held up a red and a blue lollipop in a Twitpic, echoing imagery and a line from the popular movie “Red or blue? Let's see how deep this rabbit hole goes. #BrilliantMachines”
The social media team also monitored Twitter mentions of the spot, sending messages in response to tweets.
Where the television spot delivered a broad audience, social media promotions delivered deeper connections, Lombardo said. The social media team focused conversations not only on GE but also on “The Matrix,” eventually asking correspondents for email and mailing addresses.
The social media campaign that GE built around the Agent Smith persona became its most successful of the year, Lombardo said. It demonstrated a strategy central to a social media program that last year gave away about 5,000 personal gifts. “We take a high-touch approach to building advocacy,” Lombardo said.
GE applied a Matrix filter to profile pictures of 400 people who commented on the spots, digitally adding an effect that made the images look like things in the movie. About half of the recipients reposted those images, generating more than 16,000 views.
The company also rewarded 150 Twitter users who gave their addresses with gift packages that included two movie tickets and red and blue lollipops. The gift added a new layer of social sharing to the campaign.
“We give you an experience that you can share with someone else,” Lombardo said. “A peer-to-peer impression is the holy grail. People trust people; they don't trust brands so much.”