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General Electric and Agent Smith: Terrible Ad For So Many Reasons

I saw the new General Electric advertisement on Saturday Night Live two nights ago and could not get the words out of my mouth fast enough to describe what was wrong with this ad. Sure, only our dog “Lucky” was there to hear me, but she is an excellent listener.

In case you have not seen the ad, GE is advertising their software for medical machines. Actor Hugo Weaving recreates his Agent Smith character from The Matrix movie series in the full greenish tinted non-reality of The Matrix.

Here are just a few of the problems with this ad:

– The last Matrix installment was years ago and no one saw it except die-hard fans like me. None of the final two movies were as compelling as the original, which was one of the better science fiction movies ever.

– Selling medical machines and their software is a business to business sell. You do not advertise products like these on a program where ads are crafted for consumers. The demographics for SNL skew younger so you can’t say it’s for shareholders or Wall Street.

– Agent Smith is the bad guy in the movies. A world class bad guy who represents the ultimate evil (Satan) opposing Neo (actor Keanu Reeves) who is the savior of mankind.Would you want Darth Vader taking an X-Ray of you? Not bloody likely.

– Agent Smith hates humans and everything about them. In one line he tells Morpheus (actor Lawrence Fishburne) that humans are like a virus that infect the earth. Later he speculates about his disgust with mankind “maybe it’s the smell.” Bed side manner?

– No one watching Saturday Night Live gives a hobos’ crap about medical machines. Wrong media, wrong audience, wrong messages.

– At the end of the ad there are two huge mistakes. Agent Smith answers an old fashioned telephone. Only the good guys in the movies did this as a way to navigate in and out of the Matrix. Agent Smith would not have done this.

– Another huge goof, Smith offers a kid a red or a blue sucker. Morpheus offers Neo a choice of a red pill or a blue pill to see the reality of the Matrix. Smith would not have done this.

What went wrong?

In his book, “Ogilvy On Advertising” author and advertising legend David Ogilvy wrote about a condition he named “art directoritis”. Roughly stated, it’s when art directors forget that their job is to help sell products with messages about how they will deliver value and benefits to the customer. Instead, you get “art” that has little to do with anything useful to customers or potential customers. The art directors at the agency that produced this travesty have too much money and not enough accountability to their client. And what about shareholders? They really got screwed. This ad should have been print and run in business trade magazines. But since those are not “sexy” and will not win Cleo’s you got this expensive train wreck.

From Adweek, Agent Smith makes what are probably pretty good medical machines seem really creep.
From Adweek, Agent Smith makes what are probably pretty good medical machines seem really creepy.


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