I could be wrong, of course, but this TV commercial has been irritating me since it launched last September. Perhaps you’ve seen it?


This is just one in a series of commercials, “What’s the Matter with Owen?” But here’s the short version of the story: A just-out-of-college twenty-something proudly tells his friends he landed a job programming for GE. They look disappointed and confused, inquiring why he won’t be doing the great things he proclaimed his degree would make him qualified to do in a job. He has to reassure his friends and repeat several times that he will, in fact, be doing all those wonderful things and getting his dream job to boot — i.e. writing code.

Now maybe I’m just too geeky, but what irritated me every time this commercial showed up on TV was that it seemed to be treating the audience, we viewers, as if we’re stupid. We are the same as Owen’s friends; we’re too stupid to know that GE designs and builds engines, software, etc. Really?!?!?!

Why it looks like an advertising mistake

Two things: Do you think it’s a good idea to insult your audience to win fans?

Clearly they are trying to attract college grads with programming degrees to work at GE. Check.

Second thing: Why then are they advertising for them on TV?

The millennial audience doesn’t watch the same shows I watch. In fact, they’re on the internet a lot more than I am using alternative entertainment channels instead of traditional old TV. So why run these ads so heavily on TV where their primary audience isn’t watching?

Where to advertise

There’s likely myriad reasons I’m not privvy to this ad campaign’s strategy for success. But it jumped out to me as backwards since it broke these basic advertising and marketing rules:

  • Don’t insult your audience.
  • Don’t advertise where your target audience isn’t watching.

If you’re not doing those things, I think you’re smarter than GE!