General Electric's technology is making time travel easier. Kind of. Not really. Still, that hasn't stopped the brand from making a new ad based on Back to the Future.
The spot, from BBDO in New York, part of the client's "Brilliant Machines" campaign, features enough of the essential cues: the souped-up DeLorean with the "Outatime" license plate; Marty McFly's scuffed Nike sneakers; and a voiceover by Michael J. Fox. The commercial doesn't actually show Fox, perhaps because it would shatter the illusion to see a middle-aged McFly droning on about how you kids don't know how good you have it. Back in his day, it wasn't so easy to find 1.21 gigawatts of electricity.
Instead, we get an animated trip through the DeLorean's charging apparatus. McFly riffs about the wonders of GE's hardware and software. Ultimately, we learn, the brand's technology powers entire cities, as the camera zooms out to feature a bird's-eye, Lite-Brite profile of New York City (bringing to mind the surreal Hurricane Sandy photo of a blacked-out lower Manhattan). "The turbines of today will power us all into the future," says Fox, as the sci-fi ride takes flight and disappears in a characteristic flash of blue.
The pop-culture premise of the ad is cool. The metaphor is a bit thin—the virtual ride through a power grid and stream of buzzwords don't quite forge a convincing connection between the classic work of fiction and the brand's products. On the other hand, the dazzling, vague sense of warm and fuzzy that this ad is meant to spark may be the best a brand like GE—which deals in such a wide range of hard-to-explain technologies—can hope to deliver in 30 seconds.
Sure, if Doc and Marty had had GE's 2013 technology, they wouldn't have had to chase lightning bolts up a clock tower. That would have been a less interesting movie. Don't hate on GE for trying to ruin classic films, though. It should keep paying famous actors lots of money to rattle off 30 seconds of marketing speak, and make the brand look nice.
Spot: "The Future Is Now"
Agency: BBDO, New York
Chief Creative Officer: David Lubars
Senior Creative Directors: Eric Cosper, Michael Aimette
Group Executive Producer: Anthony Nelson
Producer: George Sholley
Copywriter: Laszlo Szloboda
Art Director: Akos Papp
Director of Music and Radio Production: Rani Vaz
Worldwide Senior Account Director: Emma Armstrong
Senior Account Director: Peter McCallum
Account Managers: Lindsey Conklin, Sam White
Assistant Account Executive: David Slifer
Production Company: Chelsea
Director: David Gordon Green
Director of Photography: Simon Duggan
Music House: Human
Editing House: MacKenzie Cutler
Editor: Ian MacKenzie
Visual Effects House: Framestore
Audio Mix: Sonic Union
Mixer: Michael Marinelli