General Electric announced the Imagination Theater, which will attempt to reach consumers through the time-dishonored method of advertainment. This follows their recent experiments called One Second Theater and ecoImagination. Scott G assesses the impact and implications by discussing them with viewers. Or, he would have, if he could have found anyone who watched them.

scottgsunglasses111906General Electric has had some interesting advertising ideas this year. First, it was ecoImagination, which showed animals doing impossible (and impossibly stupid) things in cheesy computer animation.

Next came One Second Theater, which consisted of an extra message hidden inside their commercials.

Now, it’s Imagination Theater, which they swear is going to advertain you.

It’s too soon to knock Imagination Theater except to say that the site is virtually unknown to search engines and doesn’t always work properly. It’s at if you’re interested. But the crummy ecoImagination spots are still making eyes roll during Sunday morning political commentary shows. And we can certainly perform a post mortem on One Second Theater.

Embedded Nonsense
By adding embedded content to each commercial, consumers were supposed to be more interested in the spots and were then expected to engage in some sort of interactivity. It was also thought to counter the TiVo trend of avoiding commercials by having the content show up frame-by-frame when played back on a DVR.

David Lubars, chairman and chief creative officer of General Electric’s advertising agency, BBDO, said the One Second Theater advertising idea worked “in combination with new technology.”

Which is true. If by “in combination with” he meant “by shrugging off.”

Taking a Look
After much difficulty, I was able to view some of the “embedded content.” Let’s just say that you can find more excitement in an Economics 101 lecture. Example: they had a “bio” of one of the animals in the commercial. It was quite humorous, if by “humorous” you mean “deadly dull.”

Speaking of which, in a “where are they now” segment on their accompanying micro site, every actor in their commercial reenactment of the driving of the Golden Spike was identified as “dead.”

I guess that’s the sense of wit for which GE wants to be famous.

The Public Speaks (Sort of)
To be fair, it seemed I should get the opinions of other marketing professionals and some members of the public. So I conducted a highly vigorous and completely scientific survey (I called up ten of my friends).

Here are some of the responses:

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m supposed to look inside a commercial for another commercial?”

“Are you nuts?”

“No thanks.”

“Is it worth it?”

And since it wasn’t, I couldn’t bring myself to encourage anyone to make the effort. Well, there was one person…

Image Professional’s View
Advertising and rock ‘n’ roll photographer Snook hadn’t heard of the One Second Theater concept, either, but took the time to Google it. Ten minutes later, he gave up trying to view the extra embedded super secret information. “From the description, it seems like a slide show inside a commercial,” he noted.

Reflecting a bottom line sensibility that is unusual in the visual arts, he said “You can imagine a Dilbert explanation for it: ‘We can charge the client for two commercials instead of one, and we’ll know it’s working if no one notices.’ My best guess on this is that whoever came up with this idea is related to someone in senior management.”

Snook added that the slide show idea would work for a product that put the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models into their commercial.

Wasted Opportunity
So we’re laughing ruefully over the inept ecoImagination spots and waiting with low expectations on Imagination Theater. But the One Second Theater concept remains a wonderful idea that was poorly executed. Wonder if it will get a second chance.

[tags]G-Man, Gman, gman marketing, Scott G, Communication Nation, advertising, marketing, ad rants, GE, General Electric, One Second Theater, Imagination Theater, ecoImagination[/tags]