GE’s First Chief Creative Officer Talks Commercials, Content and Change

A sea change is happening in the dynamic between ad agencies and brands. As more creative content is going on the Web and becoming an integral part of brands’ identities, companies are bringing creative minds in house.

Some experts say that this is an inevitable part of the shift wherein brands are becoming publishers. Others say that the balance between in-house teams and outside creative agencies is a delicate and necessary one. Either way, many top brands are rethinking their strategy.

Enter Andy Goldberg, the first chief creative officer at Fairfield, Connecticut -based General Electric Co. (GE). He runs GE’s Creative Lab, a department of marketers with the creative license to experiment with new media projects, including a new TV show created for the National Geographic Channel called Breakthrough!, and a serialized, fictional podcast called The Message. Created in partnership with the Slate Group, the podcast was the third most popular podcast on iTunes by its second weekly installment. Goldberg’s GE commercials include “Childlike Imagination,” which was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding commercial in 2014. Other commercials made under his direction include “The Boy Who Beeps” and the “Owen” series.

According to Goldberg, the decision to move him from the agency side at Weiden + Kennedy to the brand’s in-house team, and then swiftly move him up to the chief creative officer position, was confirmation that GE is putting more and more emphasis on not just creative works but brand cohesion. Goldberg sat down with Marketing News to talk about how the creative process is changing for global marketing teams, and how thinking of campaigns in terms of B-to-B or B-to-C is quickly becoming outdated.

A sea change is happening in the dynamic between ad agencies and brands. As more creative content is going on the Web and becoming an integral part of brands’ identities, companies are bringing creative minds in house.

Some experts say that this is an inevitable part of the shift wherein brands are becoming publishers. Others say that the balance between in-house teams and outside creative agencies is a delicate and necessary one. Either way, many top brands are rethinking their strategy.

Enter Andy Goldberg, the first chief creative officer at Fairfield, Connecticut -based General Electric Co. (GE). He runs GE’s Creative Lab, a department of marketers with the creative license to experiment with new media projects, including a new TV show created for the National Geographic Channel called Breakthrough!, and a serialized, fictional podcast called The Message. Created in partnership with the Slate Group, the podcast was the third most popular podcast on iTunes by its second weekly installment. Goldberg’s GE commercials include “Childlike Imagination,” which was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding commercial in 2014. Other commercials made under his direction include “The Boy Who Beeps” and the “Owen” series.

According to Goldberg, the decision to move him from the agency side at Weiden + Kennedy to the brand’s in-house team, and then swiftly move him up to the chief creative officer position, was confirmation that GE is putting more and more emphasis on not just creative works but brand cohesion. Goldberg sat down with Marketing News to talk about how the creative process is changing for global marketing teams, and how thinking of campaigns in terms of B-to-B or B-to-C is quickly becoming outdated.

What did it mean, at the time, to head up the ‘creative’ department at GE?

I was responsible for the media, and I was truly directing creative and working with the agency and really figuring out the strategy and positioning. Obviously there are creatives working on the ideas themselves from the genesis of it, just like any agency, but I was truly determining which was the best, how to add to it and what was going to make it grow and give it life. More recently I started running a group called the Creative Lab where it was digital content, branding, strategy, experiential, advertising and media working together. That was to round out our whole offering to one system and make it much more cohesive around how we go to market with our strategy and work. That’s how I got into this role recently, being chief creative officer—GE’s first creative officer—to really help define how we go to market. What is our strategic position, but more importantly, how do I up our game creatively to stay ahead of the curve?

We launched a podcast called “The Message” through our GE Podcast Theater, and it’s a narrative, fictional podcast that, very much like any well-done podcast out there, is an eight-episode story. I had to ask how we do something fundamentally different in storytelling. That’s the type of thing that goes beyond just the advertising. That’s where this next round goes. We just launched a TV show called Breakthrough! on the National Geographic Channel. That’s what this new role is entailing: figuring out how the strategy will marry up to new forms of creative expression and how we guide that through the system, whether it’s through the team here or agencies that we work with.

What does this move toward storytelling mean for marketing in general?

In the next two or three years, the landscape is changing. You need experts in verticals. You need subject matter experts and then you need some experts who can see the bigger picture of a whole landscape. Media and creative are changing. It’s funny, we’ve been in this trajectory of technology and media dictating how stories are told. I feel like were now re-balancing, [and] the story and creative itself are going to help dictate where the technology will go. It’s a balance I’ve seen happen, and it’ll recalibrate. That’s the directive, that’s the goal: staying ahead of the curve and being unexpected and pushing the envelope of what great creative is, what great media is. It’s developing new ways and new pathways that are more than just what’s offered in the marketplace, but creating our way to tell our story. At the end of the day, that’s what I want to do. It’s creative, but it’s creative across everything: across media and brand and the actual storytelling. I don’t look at it as one thing, I look at it as an amalgamation of how you tell the one GE story so that it becomes clear to the marketplace, but do it in the right way so you’re not repeating yourself.

GE Creative Lab is a team of branding, media, digital content and programming, experiential, and advertising and content development. The lab is a place where people have a directive to tell the story of GE, and bring that to life through those mediums, to experiment and to try new things. I don’t know if that happens unless we call ourselves a lab and have the ability to try things out and test them and see how they work. If you don’t make your team a place of experimentation, then you create strict roles: One person will be in charge of advertising and they’ll only come up with advertising ideas. That is limiting. The lab opens up other possibilities. It also allows different businesses within a larger company like GE to call upon my group to help them out for quick creative projects. Our goal is to incubate new ideas.

What’s in store for the next few months of your new role? You’ve said that you want to be a part of creating the next GE. What does that mean, and how does creativity help with that?

We’re working on some ideas now: There’s the story in the “Owen” commercials out there right now, about us becoming a digital industrial company, so we have to keep telling that story. Also, how do you explain the benefit of the multiple businesses and knowledge share that goes on within GE? Those are the two big initiatives from a strategic standpoint. From a creative standpoint, I don’t know yet. The other goal is to be truly global. We operate on a global mentality, but it’s not fully global yet and we’re working to make our stuff integrated across the board.

“One GE” is about speaking from a similar voice and knowing that there is one GE. When you think about GE, there’s one GE and then there’re businesses within GE. If someone sees a jet engine or a health care machine or a piece of content, I want them to feel like there’s a creative essence behind it. At our core, we are “imagination at work”: We are inventing and making the world work better. And that story, no matter where you experience it, should come from one GE and not different GEs. You shouldn’t feel like you’re experiencing different brands.​​​

[Source:- AMA]