GE sets aside big bucks to show off some green

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GE doesn't harm the environment when it brings good things to life.

That's the message that will underpin a massive companywide business initiative to push its environmentally friendly products. General Electric Co. is expected to allot a substantial portion of its $90 million corporate advertising budget to back its eco-stance, its biggest marketing push since the launch of its Imagination at Work positioning in 2003.

Chairman-CEO Jeffrey Immelt will announce the details of the initiative, branded Ecomagination, in a speech in Washington today. He's expected to make a number of commitments, including plans to double its revenue from eco-safe products to $20 billion by the year 2010. The effort is being described by GE executives as Mr. Immelt's "stake in the ground."

SCREENING

"As part of the labeling process, we've gone through an extensive screening process for every one of those products that fall under the Ecomagination umbrella," said Jonathan Klein, GE spokesman. He described the initiative as the fruit of more than a year-and-a-half of research and said that it's been driven in part by environmental concerns voiced by GE's customers.

The campaign, targeted at GE's business-to-business customer base as well as investors, employees and consumers, kicked off in earnest today with eight-page inserts in four major newspapers and will be followed by more print and TV work created by Omnicom Group's BBDO, New York. The TV plan includes prime-time buys during sweeps as well as a heavy cable and news presence, said Judy Hu, GE's global executive director-advertising and branding.

Mr. Klein added that the interactive presence is the "most robust online launch we've ever had." It was developed by Atmosphere BBDO and independents Syrup and Blitz.

Many of the creative executions juxtapose GE creations with natural elements. In one of the print ads, for cleaner coal technology, a bird's nest rests in a branch coming out a smokestack. In another, part of a series of altered Audubon prints, a clean locomotive chugs by a trio of Lapland longspurs.

"The ad campaign is to support the series of critical business messages that Jeff is announcing," Ms. Hu said. "The advertising is one way of getting across the commitments to helping customers find environmental solutions to problems."

GE's announcement comes amid a PR blitz assisted by the independent firm Edelman. Mr. Immelt will conduct a press conference and several interviews throughout the day, culminating with a cocktail reception attended by business executives, including some GE customers, as well as politicians and environmentalists. Meanwhile, GE is conducting an internal communications effort featuring a children's magazine designed to explain Ecomagination to employees' kids and their communities.

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