GE Brings Back “Owen” To Woo Tech Talent During The Academy Awards

Once a social outcast, now everyone wants to be Owen.

Last year, GE launched a recruitment campaign, “What’s the matter with Owen,” a series of ads featuring a young programmer who had just landed a job at GE.


The campaign was aimed at tech talent, specifically developers, to let them know that working at a hipster app was all very well, but GE–one of Fast Company‘s 2016 Most Innovative Companies–is in the business of changing the world. While Owen’s friends and family were completely underwhelmed by his news at the time, a new series of spots shows that others have realized having a job where one can revolutionize how things like hospitals, planes, and trains operate is actually very cool indeed.

Three wry new spots see our hero being pursued by others trying to get hired by GE. The campaign, once again created by agency BBDO New York, conjures up a range of ever-more desperate scenarios, from a street ambush by a hopeful applicant to a rather implausible singing “Orc-O-Gram,” who competes with an elf for Owen’s attention. As in the earlier executions, the new ads carry the tagline, “The digital company. That’s also an industrial company.”

GE chief creative officer Andy Goldberg says that unlike a startup, GE is already long-established in the tech space so one of the biggest obstacles is making sure potential recruits know what the company actually does. “Our challenge is making talent aware of that and then opening their eyes to what is possible,” says Goldberg. “Fact is, we are doing things that really change the world and have deep impact through industry,”

The brand decided to bring Owen back for another campaign following excellent results from the original ads–an eight-fold increase in job applications–and is looking to build on that success. “We saw a massive lift in applications at GE Digital, and increased awareness around our position as a digital industrial company,” says Goldberg. “When we first introduced Owen last summer, we used the news of him getting a job as a developer to tackle misconceptions about who GE is, and what GE does. His friends and family were behind the learning curve, they didn’t understand GE as the digital innovator that it has become.”

BBDO NY creative director Judd Counsel says the idea behind the new ads is to show how much the dynamic between Owen and his peers has changed since then. “The misconceptions are gone, they’re up to speed–people finally know GE is the only digital industrial company, and they want in on the action.”

That said, it seems unlikely dressing up as an Orc and presenting oneself at GE offices is going to land that dream job, but who knows?


The three new ads will break on TV during this Sunday’s live broadcast of the Academy Awards. GE CMO Linda Boff recently wrote that the company now invests about 92% of its TV ad budget on live programming, “approximately 36% more than the average advertiser.”

About the author

Louise Jack is a London-based journalist, writer and editor with a background in advertising and marketing. She has written for several titles including Marketing Week, Campaign and The Independent.