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GE Launches Campaign on Late-Night TV to Recruit College Grads

In 'What's the Matter With Owen,' GE Positions Itself as a Digital Industrial Company

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GE is launching a TV campaign on late-night comedy shows, designed to recruit young professionals and position itself as a digital industrial company.

The campaign, called "What's the Matter with Owen?," includes three TV spots, as well as social media, featuring a college grad named Owen who has just been hired as an industrial internet developer at GE.

The spots will break Tuesday on CBS' "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" and NBC's "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."

The campaign was created by BBDO New York and the budget was undisclosed.

"The goal is to set up the promise of GE being a digital industrial company," said Andy Goldberg, global creative director at GE. "It brings this idea of big iron and big data together under one roof."

In 2012, GE introduced the industrial internet, a business that brings hardware, software and big data together.

"One of the things we're really pushing as we drive into being a digital industrial company is what GE is becoming," Mr. Goldberg said. "One of the ideas, with the creative strategy, is that you wouldn't expect us to be in this space, but we are very powerful in this space."

In the TV spots, Owen is thrilled with his new job as a developer for GE, but his friends and family don't get it.

In a spot called "Big News," Owen tells his friends, who are holding a celebratory cake and balloons, that he'll be writing a new language for machines so planes, trains and hospitals can work better.

"So you're going to work on a train?" one friend asks. "You're not going to develop stuff anymore?"

In another spot, called "The Hammer," Owen tells his family that he's been hired by GE, and his dad gives him a hammer that was his grandfather's -- thinking he'll be working on building industrial equipment.

Owen tells them that while GE does build machines, he'll be writing code that lets machines talk to each other.

In a third spot, called "Zazzies," Owen tells his friends about his new job as a programmer at GE, and they are not impressed. One friend has just landed a job at "Zazzies," an app that lets you put fruit hats on animals.

"I can do dogs, hamsters, guinea pigs -- you name it," the friend says. "I'm going to transform the way the world works," Owen replies.

Within each spot, copy reads, "GE. The digital company. That's also an industrial company."

Mr. Goldberg said the launch on late-night TV shows made sense because "we felt there would be lot of buzz coming around 'The Late Show' [which premieres tonight with Stephen Colbert], so why not take advantage of the audience and the cultural moment." The campaign will run throughout the fall on network and cable programming, including NFL football on NBC.

It will be reinforced by social media, with Owen's character taking over GE's social-media accounts to talk about his first days on the job.

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