To launch GE’s new smart lightbulb called Link, agency BBDO New York tapped an unexpected directorial force–comedy mutants Tim & Eric–to create a mock infomercial starring Jeff Goldblum as famous person Terry Quattro, who teaches us, among other things, how to remedy our horribly lit, unsuccessful, non-celebrity lives.
But GE has been confounding expectations for so long now with its entertaining approach to science and engineering, and its devotion to creating content across any and all platforms, a move like this appeared entirely logical.
GE’s executive director of global brand marketing Linda Boff says despite being a 140-year-old brand in 70 countries, it aims to be a brand perceived as human, quirky, and a little bit unexpected. “When we re-imagined the infomercial to sell light bulbs, we had an opportunity to catch people’s attention,” says Boff. “Within three days we sold out the Link lightbulbs at HomeDepot.com. I love that because it goes directly back to the strategy–we are who we are, and we’re super comfortable with it.”
Here, BBDO New York executive creative director Michael Aimette talks about the recipe for the success of “Enhance Your Lighting.”
What was the brief?
GE gave us a short and straightforward brief. They tasked us with creating an entertaining infomercial that would introduce their latest innovation, GE Link, a Wi-Fi-controllable LED bulb. We needed to tout product features, installation and low pricing, and ultimately drive consumers to retail locations. Our target audience consisted of young, tech enthusiasts and DIY homeowners who were interested in smart home systems. And, as with all infomercials, our ad would only be aired during late night national TV and online.
What was the insight that led to the idea? How did you know this was the way to go?
We knew that in order to differentiate our film from the cluttered landscape of bad infomercials and made-for-TV movies, we had to create something that would really stand out. So we decided to create an over-the-top parody of an infomercial, with a charmingly self-important spokesman who would demonstrate the many features of GE Link by taking you through his opulent “successful-guy” mansion. When we saw a perfectly coiffed Jeff Goldblum playing piano in a hot tub, we had a moment where we thought this was either the way to go, or the way to getting fired.
What were some of the key decisions in terms of the creative and production process? Was it always going to be a Tim & Eric project?
We actually didn’t know that this was always going to be a Tim & Eric project. We came up with what we felt was a pretty hardworking script that incorporated all the product features, pricing and installation information but that might also, hopefully, make people chuckle here and there. We shopped the script around to a few different directors, but ultimately felt that Tim & Eric were the best team for this. In terms of other key decisions, casting was another big one. We started with a very long list of actors we thought might work to be our spokesman, and there was a lot of debate. In the end, Jeff Goldblum really was the perfect choice to be our self-proclaimed “famous person.” And even the supporting roles were well cast, from Kevin the lighting servant to Tammy the testimonial lady.
How did you measure success for the film?
The biggest measure of success for this film was product sales. Within three days of the film airing, GE had sold out of six months’ worth of GE Link inventory. Online, the film quickly went viral, getting over a million views within three days. Ultimately, the film grabbed over 1.36 billion earned media impressions around the world.
What’s the biggest lesson marketers can get from the success of this?
I’m not sure we’re ones to be dispensing lessons to marketers, but what we did is what we always try to do–get people to pay attention to our core message in an entertaining way. We felt most proud that we embraced a ton of product features and the “info” in infomercial, but still came away with something people consider entertaining and shareable. Another lesson that can be learned is that playing piano in the bathtub doesn’t look as sexy as you’d think.