The Player: Hu to make General Electric household name worldwide

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A month into the job as general manager for corporate advertising and marketing communications at General Electric Co., Judy Hu already has a full plate.

Since the Detroit native's duties include developing global strategies, she's studying how to define the GE brand worldwide and to broaden its U.S. ad message from the current focus on lighting and appliances.

"Our challenge is to get consumers to understand what GE is today," she said. While GE has virtually 100% brand awareness in the U.S., it is "virtually unknown" in Europe and Asia. She predicted the new campaign would break in the U.S. sometime in the next 12 months.

Ms. Hu, who is based in Fairfield, Conn., wants to increase GE's Hispanic advertising in the U.S. and said she'll start a review in two months for a U.S. Hispanic agency. She'll also determine whether she needs one or several agencies to handle GE's first major corporate ad effort in Asia Pacific. "Our idea is to bring all the work together and to have one look and one feel to the advertising."

GE is a multinational giant with 14 business units that include financial services, plastics and jet engines. The marketer spent $229 million in U.S. measured media last year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, is GE's agency of record.

Ms. Hu, 49, is no stranger to big corporations. Her last employer was General Motors Corp. She joined GM in 1996 as general director of advertising resources as part of the team put together by Philip Guarascio, former VP-corporate advertising.

Since May 2001, Ms. Hu was the first executive director at newly-created GM's Center of Expertise for Diversity and Growth Markets. In that post, she managed GM's "Keep America Rolling" general, multimedia corporate campaign that started shortly after Sept. 11 last year and included multicultural ads. She dubbed the effort "a personal highlight."

After graduating cum laude from Harvard University in 1975 with an English and American Literature degree, she spent six years working for trade and textbook publishers in Boston. Armed with her M.B.A. from Yale in 1983, she joined D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, as an assistant account executive.

That's when she met Avi Dan, her boss at D'Arcy on Procter & Gamble Co.'s Crest, Ivory and Always accounts. "She's very strong strategically and a very strong leader," said Mr. Dan, now managing partner of WPP Group's Berlin Cameron/Red Cell. "She had the ability to be very diplomatic while pushing ahead with her agenda and getting good advertising."

Ms. Hu left D'Arcy in 1987 to join Leo Burnett Co.'s Hong Kong office. At United Airlines, she worked on a unified campaign in English, Korean, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. She returned to D'Arcy in 1992 at its Troy, Mich. office as senior VP-strategic systems director.

Mr. Dan said his former protege was an early proponent of diversity marketing, having worked on P&G's first-ever African-American ads for Crest in the mid-1980s. "It won't surprise me if she remains at the forefront of this."

Fast Facts

Name: Judy Hu

Title: General manager, corporate advertising, General Electric Co. Age: 49

Challenge: Develop a global brand strategy to be communicated in uniform campaigns.

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