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GE Smart Grid Ad Laments: "If I Only Had a Brain"

GE's Smart Grid campaign started during Super Bowl XLIII this week with a $3 million, 30-second ad.

The GE Super Bowl 43 ad borrows from "The Wizard of Oz" to kick off a GE advertising campaign highlighting the smart grid.

I'm all for strong marketing, especially well-timed messages that might bolster support for stimulus spending on energy efficiency. But my immediate reaction to the ad was, How much of the "dumb" grid was supplied by GE? (Not that it's really GE's fault.)

Over the tune of Scarecrow's song, "If I only had a brain," the narrator claims: "Smart grid technology from GE will make the way we distribute electricity more efficient simply by making it more intelligent."

It's true that a smarter grid supports more energy efficiency. It's also true that the technology exists today. So, why is it in GE's warehouse, and not in the grid? Two reasons:

  1. Those who built the grid -- originally power utilities, and then independent operators -- chose not to invest in it.
  2. Much of the technology has been proven out only in recent years, when practically no one has been investing in grid upgrades.

What most Super Bowl viewers didn't notice is that the ad campaign carries through to GE's web site. GE spent megabucks on "digital hologram" novelties that will disappoint most visitors -- if they're technically able to use them at all. The interactive appeals to a Generation Xbox/YouTube demographic of young consumers, but it completely misses grid owners, investors and legislators.

 photo on EnergyPriorities.com

GE's Smart Grid interactive site uses interesting but clunky open-source "augmented reality." It requires that you have a web cam, printer, microphone, speakers and Flash Player v.10.

The Scarecrow spot, however, was more than a straw man. It reached some 98 million viewers and helped connect GE's name with the much-talked-about smart grid. If you watch the commercial carefully you'll see a dusty, rusty, crow-infested grid that is, as the song says, brainless.

We'll see whether the efforts of GE (and IBM and others advertising smart grid technologies) can help to smarten up politicians, investors and, eventually, the grid itself.

"Much like Boone Pickens's media onslaught for his plan, this will start the public thinking in the right direction," writes residential-solar reseller Douglas Arrison. "It's amazing what a little PR can do to pave the way for solar, renewables and smart grid technology."

Super Bowl Ads online

Smart Grid Goes Prime Time with GE Super Bowl Ad Smart Grid News blog

WARNING: The following link might crash your browser:
GE Ecomagination Smart Grid "augmented reality" site


I'm very opposed to as well as appalled by GE's new commercial showing the scarecrow dancing on power line.
We've been teaching children not to play on electrical wires for years because it will KILL them. Now this scarecrow is showing them how fun it is to play on electrical wires.

The GE Ad does a very good job of highlighting the problem for Smart Grid deployment - The utilites have no idea how to connect to a "Grid Brain". Some as are identified in the AD are looking for a "Grid Brain" but a lot fear connecting to a coordinating "Grid Brain". In fact all of the leading contenders developing "Smart Grid" products expect to use technology that was deployed in the last century called "Master-Slave". This "comfortable" Master-Slave is as old, rusty and dusty as the crow in the commercial implies with no coordinating brain even possible.

Most utilities lack technical competence in the Web Ethernet technologies of this century. So while secure banking and e-commerce are common place only a few leading utilites allow use of Web browsers and Ethernet Client-Server technology to enable connectivity to a Smart Grid Brain.

RAI has developed EtherServe Technology as a "Smart Grid Brain". EtherServe is deployed by a growing list of visionary utilites across the US. These utilites are continuing to expand the benefits of the EtherServe's "Smart Grid Brain". The Smart Grid Brain is entirely based upon the Web's Ethernet system and has no rusty holdover to last century's technology.

Imagine using a Web Browser for a "Vision of the Grid" - that is EtherServe's Utility Proven and 10-year Deployed Contribution - The Smart Grid Brain Solution today.

The author thinks that TBPickens campaign will "get consumers thinking in the right direction." I disagree, unless he means it will get consumers thinking that "some people will do anything for a buck." The more electricity savvy among consumers can easily see that wind energy requires MORE NG in electricity, and that any significant new use of NG beyond heating and load following (load following is what more wind energy requires more of) will make natural gas more expensive.

The demographic GE's ad really hits is those who have been singing "if I only had a brain" their whole lives.

If you only had a brain is the key line. If you only had a brain OR half of a brain you could see that we need to go green. What a waste of advertising money. Such a great example of backward thinking. Your advertising reaches sheepeople not people. May you drown in sheep poop. Marie

Re; G.E. Scarecrow commercial
I was shocked to see the G.E. endorsement on this commercial!
I am shocked that I did not see Scarecrow drawing arcs and smoke and flame from his encounters with the power lines and insulators. It was the lack of these signs that I find totally disturbing! For GENERAL ELECTRIC to miss the safety implications of the electrical hazards implied is unforgivable, A no brainer!

Yukio YANO

As a biologist working on newly constructed high voltage power lines, I see first hand the fatal effects on birds landing on power lines and in substations.

I find the end of this commercial (where the scarecrow zaps the raven)offensive and thoughtless.