BBDO, Pytka Return to 15th Century for GE

NEW YORK BBDO’s latest spot for General Electric’s corporate image campaign travels back in time more than 500 years and imagines what would have happened if Christopher Columbus were short of funds.

Joe Pytka of Pytka directed the commercial, which has 60- and 30-second versions and broke Tuesday. In the ad, Columbus is shown charming the Queen of Spain in order to finance his voyage to the New World. She acquiesces, but gives him only three small ships. “Without proper financing, even the best ideas in the world can fall flat,” a voiceover states. “GE Commercial Finance. Because the right financing can make a world of difference,” it continues. “Imagination at work” remains the tagline.

The ad is part of an estimated $80 million campaign that highlights different GE products and services. Another spot, which broke April 15, shows police interrogators complimenting their suspect’s “sea foam”-color shirt because they can see things more clearly under GE Reveal lightbulbs.

BBDO chose Columbus’ voyage because it illustrates the “classic quest for money” that the GE division can facilitate, said Don Schneider, executive creative director at the New York agency.

The shoot took place in late March over two days on a lot at Universal Studios in Hollywood, Calif. Pytka also shot backgrounds in Spain to use in some scenes. BBDO personnel on the campaign included senior creative director, copywriter David Johnson and creative director, art director John Leu.

The number of people in period costumes on the small set made the scene “surreal,” Schneider said. “Watching Joe [Pytka] order guys around from the 15th century was really, really cool,” he said.

Pytka was selected because of his ability to direct epic commercials, according to Schneider. “He has the sensibility to pull off a period piece in such a cinematic, believable, interesting way,” he said.