An Open Letter to GE: We need to talk about Molly.

I get it. You want the world to know you promote the idea of women engineers. You’ve got one of the top agencies in the world (BBDO) helping you out push this concept, and you’ve been developing feel good commercial spots to raise the awareness and visibility of Women in STEM, which is a much appreciated and needed cause.

But with this one you and your agency really struck a wrong chord. I admit, when I first saw the commercial I was impressed, but the second time, something gnawed at me.

The concept is interesting, but not properly developed. The 60 second spots show a young girl with a passion for inventing, of course with the requisite glasses, thinking creatively, and solving problems. Yet these these inventions involve cleaning or studying.

Your commercial shows how she must work her entire life to become an engineer, with no time for fun, play, being a kid (except for the short dancing around, alone, not interacting with friends). Every moment shown of this girl’s journey is dedicated to studying, inventing.

(NOTE: The full 1:30 video shows her involvement in Girl Scouts, but also shows her not interacting with other kids, hopefully inadvertently suggesting she’s ostracized from her peers.)

Finally as she gets a job, she of course excels at it, but the focus is on the end, when she humbly reacts to the approval from her male boss, not to the accomplishment.

I discussed this commercial and my take on it with men (and a readily available teenage boy who happens to be math and science fan). Their reactions were consistent, and followed what was likely the intention of the commercial, that of a passionate kid dedicated to her interest in a STEM vocation, and working to achieve a goal.

The women I spoke with about it also all had the same reaction, that of annoyance. To them it showed that girls must work every moment from childhood to work in STEM. Sure, she seems to be a happy child, building her own self-esteem through her achievements, but the message you’re sending is one women watching already know: women are required to work twice as hard, twice as long, just to be noticed. And being noticed became the focus of the commercial, not the accomplishment and the impact.

Nuance Matters

I’ve worked in agencies before. I am a marketer. I am a strategist. I understand how this happened. It’s very familiar. It starts with the team. Let’s take a look at who created this commercial.

  • Agency: BBDO New York
    • Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide: David Lubars
    • Chief Creative Officer, New York: Greg Hahn
    • Executive Creative Director: Michael Aimette
    • Senior Creative Director, Art Director: Eric Goldstein
    • Creative Director, Copywriter: Fred Kovey
    • Head of Production: David Rolfe
    • Executive Producer: George Sholley
    • Content Producer: Jack Patrick

I don’t see any women on the creative team developing this. This story is the brainchild of what MEN view as a woman’s journey to success in STEM.

Don’t do that.

The general concept had merit, but the execution is demeaning and condescending to women. That it was created by only men is not only obvious, but counter to the message you are trying to send with this commercial and the overall message, campaign, initiative you are trying to promote.

Do better.

Insist women are in positions of influence with your vendors, and involved in the development of your work, especially those that are specifically dedicated to promoting women.

Dare we ask the demographic makeup of the team in GE dedicated to this initiative?

NOTE: To the women in the agency or on the team involved in this, the ones who squinted their eyes, tilted their heads, were shot down when raising concerns because the CD reigned supreme, you were right. Keep speaking out in those meetings, even if you think it doesn’t matter. It does.