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GE will debut a two-minute TV spot tonight during the opening game of "NFL Thursday Night Football" -- the introduction of its fall campaign for "Language of Industry."
The spot, called "The Boy Who Beeps," is being presented more of a film than as a commercial, and is designed to show the evolution of GE's two-year-old Industrial Internet business.
The Industrial Internet business brings together software, analytics and machines to serve industries including health care, energy, transportation and other vertical markets. When the initiative was launched at GE's Mind + Machines conference in November 2012, GE announced it would spend more than $1 billion over three years to develop technology for the business at a new software center in San Ramon, Calif.
The first advertising for the business was a campaign called "Brilliant Machines," created by GE's agency BBDO New York. That spot featured the character Agent Smith from "The Matrix" (played by Hugo Weaving), taking a sci-fi approach to showing how data and machines can work together.
"When the campaign first launched, it was about the concept -- the idea that through software and data, and understanding how big industrial machines operate, we're able to make them more efficient," said Andy Goldberg, global creative director at GE.
"Now that the reality of [the business] is coming to life, it's more than about GE. The software we're developing connects not just with GE industrial machines, but with any industrial machines," Mr. Goldberg said. "The positioning is, GE speaks the language of industry, hence 'The Boy Who Beeps.'"
In the spot, also created by BBDO New York, a baby is born and communicates by beeping. As the story unfolds, the boy grows up and learns how to manipulate machines with his beeps -- changing the channel on the TV, moving toy cars, even changing traffic lights.
"We wanted to treat it more as a film and tell a story," Mr. Goldberg said. "It's not a hard sell. It's a wonderful story about a very special boy who is channeling what GE stands for."
GE will continue to use the two-minute format during other NFL games, NHL games and "Saturday Night Live."
It will also create a series of 30-second spots, print ads, content-marketing partnerships and social-media campaigns to tell the story of the Industrial Internet, Mr. Goldberg said. The company declined to provide details on the campaign's budget. Last year GE spent $162 million on measured media, down 16% from a year earlier, according to Kantar Media. Of that, $92 million was spent on TV, a 45% drop.
Michael Aimette, executive creative director at BBDO New York, said the two-minute format works particularly well for this kind of storytelling.
"GE is trying to tell a very deep industrial story, and we wanted to make a long-form piece to tell this story," Mr. Aimette said. "GE is very much a human company. Everything starts with people and ideas, and making things and life better for humans. Telling the story through a kid is a great way to tell the story of what GE is doing and how it benefits everyone else."