Ad of the Day: GE Embarks on ‘Unimpossible Missions’ Like Saving a Snowball in Hell

An absorbing and entertaining series of films from BBDO

Happy Inventors Day! To celebrate, GE has launched a series of films that bring good things to life with a bold new attitude. 

Created by BBDO, the videos send GE engineers on "Unimpossible Missions" designed to highlight the company's problem-solving skills and the breadth of its cutting-edge technology.

"There's a whole branch of idioms called 'idioms of improbability' that describe things that are impossible or unlikely to occur," Michael Aimette, executive creative director at BBDO, tells Adweek. "We decided to disprove these. We brainstormed many options, and landed on 'Snowball's Chance in Hell' for our hero concept." 

The clips, running more than two minutes each, cast techies as badass mythbusters with advanced degrees. Stylistically, note the tongue-in-cheek, action-movie music cues and cinematic editing techniques—as well as relaxed, assured narration that informs and entertains. Such elements are well deployed to create a fun and sophisticated viewing experience.

The signature spot, "Snowball's Chance in Hell," sets the tone for all the installments, touting advancements from GE's aviation, power and healthcare divisions.

Filmed at a sprawling foundry in Kazakstan—a cool-creepy setting worthy of a Freddie Kruger flick—researchers encase a snowball in a specially designed vessel to see if the slush remains frozen when submerged in temperatures topping 2000 degrees. (The container is made from a super-alloy the company normally uses to build jet engines, which must endure similarly toasty temperatures.)


Whoa, hot stuff! Good thing it didn't misfire.

"All three experiments had great levels of risk," says Andy Goldberg, GE's chief creative officer. "We tested them all at GE's Global Research Center and made sure they would all work—but there's always a risk of things not working when you're filming live." 

"Snowball's" fiery imagery and audacious premise makes it especially memorable, but each film delivers the goods in its own way. 

Next, GE's intrepid brainiacs attempt to catch lightning in a bottle, literally, by placing a supercapacitor inside a glass jug. The company pioneered supercapacitors, which can absorb sudden bursts of energy and are typically used in MRI machines and wind turbines. For the film, GE generates a charge of 2 million volts. At one point, the team magnificently incinerates a glam-rock drummer mannequin, demonstrating the potency of the power involved. (Its mind is thoroughly blown, along with the rest of its body.) 


It's not exactly shocking that these experiments succeed every time, especially since the point of the campaign is to illuminate how GE can help current and potential customers do amazing things. Much like Mission Impossible, the tension and drama don't turn on discovering if the team will triumph, but rather on learning exactly how the company's products make these successes possible.

The series also serves as a recruitment tool, Goldberg says, that will hopefully put the company "on the radar of future creators, scientists and engineers" who might not consider GE as sexy as the tech giants of Silicon Valley. The brand's amusing "What's the Matter With Owen" campaign, also from BBDO, was a nod in the same direction.

Which brings us to the series' most surreal and poetic entry: "Like Talking to a Wall," in which a man reads a storybook aloud while facing a section of the Berlin Wall. As he speaks, GE sensors detect minute sound-wave vibrations in the wall and transport his words to speakers on the other side, nearly 200 yards away, allowing a group of youngsters to hear the story.


That one really resonates, owing largely to the symbolism of the Berlin Wall itself. Built as a barrier to the free exchange of cultures and ideas, the wall's remains have morphed into icons of sharing and rebirth. SoundCloud tapped into that vibe in its award-winning "acoustic reconstruction" campaign last year. Here, GE leverages the wall's mystique to demonstrate the marvels human ingenuity make possible. 

The series is launching under the banner of GE Theater, a broad push by the company to deliver "meaningful content that people actually want to read, listen to, watch and consume," says Goldberg. They will appear on GE's social properties in addition to millennial-focused venues like Great Big Story and (at the latter, a global site takeover happens today).

In addition, the company is leveraging its live platforms—notably, Periscope and Snapchat—to provide behind-the-scenes content and interviews with the scientists that brought the experiments to life. Today at 2 p.m. ET, GE will stream a new "Unimpossible Mission" experiment on its Periscope channel. 

The GE Theater name harks back to the company's long-running Cold War-era anthology show on CBS. The company has become adept at content generation of late, using various media formats to shed its "old-school" image as a stuffy industrial conglomerate and appeal to the next generation.

"Every brand has to find out what their audience wants to see and how they like to engage," Goldberg says. In an increasingly digital world, doing so can form an essential and even transcendent element of a company's identity. "When you can show a customer who you are with an enjoyable experience," Goldberg says, "your content becomes more than just marketing."

With that goal in sight, GE will keep applying its experimental mindset—a company pillar, after all—to get the media mix and message just right.