Atta way Ben! From the NY Times:
A Web Series for G.E. Tests a Refrigerator and Freshness
By ANDREW ADAM NEWMAN
Published: June 13, 2012
IN a telephone prank passed down by generations of children, the caller asks, “Is your refrigerator running?” and, after an affirmative response, the caller says, “Then you better go catch it.”
Ben Sargent, right, a chef who is the host of “Hook, Line & Dinner” on the Cooking Channel, and Justin Berger, a General Electric engineer, on their trip from Kentucky to Texas to promote a line of G.E. refrigerators.
Times Topic: General Electric Company
Consumers might be reminded of that chestnut when they see a new campaign from General Electric that features a refrigerator that is, in fact, on the move.
For a new online video series, “Freshpedition” in late April, G.E. hoisted one of its new French door refrigerators from its factory floor in Louisville, Ky., onto the bed of a pickup truck, where it was attached to a generator. Then the company sent Ben Sargent, the chef who is the host of “Hook, Line & Dinner” on the Cooking Channel, and Justin Berger, a G.E. refrigerator engineer, on their way.
The series, captured by a film crew and shot in the style of a reality show, follows the two as they drive about 2,000 miles to Texas to reach Ron Thompson, a wildlife biologist who studies mountain lions and other species. Because Mr. Thompson spends months at a time conducting field research with no access to fresh food, the mission was for the chef to surprise him with a freshly prepared meal.
Mr. Sargent procured provisions for the meal from farmers and fishermen over the course of a week along the way, including peach ice cream in Alabama, alligator meat in Louisiana and squash blossoms in Texas. At each stop, Mr. Berger, with the deliberateness of a scientist handling specimens, placed items in the compartment of the refrigerator.
The Web series is by BBDO New York, which is part of the BBDO Worldwide unit of the Omnicom Group, with production by Acne Studios. It was directed by John Feist, whose credits include “Survivor,” and Kate Hall.
Timothy Matis, the advertising director of G.E. Appliances, said that the road trip was “the ultimate torture test,” but, befitting a refrigerator campaign, admitted he had to warm up to the plan.
“I’ll be honest with you. This idea made us very nervous,” said Mr. Matis. “It took a while to embrace such a visionary concept.”
Engineers at the company also had concerns about the stunt.
“The engineers said, ‘What are you talking about? You’re going to bounce it around in a truck? We didn’t test for that,’ ” Mr. Matis recalled them saying. “‘You’re going to put it in the Texas heat? We didn’t test for that.’ ”
The collapse of the housing market put a chill on refrigerator sales. Manufacturers shipped 8.9 million units in 2011, down from 10.4 million in 2007, a drop of 14.4 percent, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
The most common reason consumers buy a new refrigerator or dishwasher is that the previous one broke or performed poorly, with moving to a new home the second most-common reason, according to Mintel, a market research firm. In third are kitchen remodeling or simply acquiring a fridge that is more energy efficient, larger or with more features.
Models with refrigerators and freezers side-by-side were once the standard, but 2011 was the first year refrigerators with the freezer on the bottom exceeded side-by-side models in number of units shipped. Refrigerators with freezers on the bottom, known as bottom mounts, accounted for 26 percent of the refrigerator market in 2011, up from 14.9 percent in 2007, according to the appliance association.
New G.E. models have two doors on the refrigerator section, and a freezer unit below. Among features that the company says are a first for the category are a hands-free water dispenser in the exterior of the door that senses when a glass or pitcher is filled and stops, a water and ice filtration system that removes pharmaceuticals sometimes found in drinking water, and a hot water dispenser for tea or oatmeal. Temperature and humidity can be customized in refrigerator drawers to keep a variety of foods fresher for longer, the company says.
The new campaign grew out of an assertion by the brand that “this fridge keeps food fresher for longer than anything else,” said Scott Rodgers, a senior creative director at BBDO.
“We said, ‘How are we going to prove this?’ and we said ultimately this has to be put to a test,” Mr. Rodgers continued. “It has to be full of food and delivered to someone who hasn’t had fresh food for a long time.”
“Freshpedition” borrows a page from movies like “The Odd Couple,” with the humor drawing from the differences in characters. Among the reasons that Mr. Berger, the G.E. engineer, was cast opposite the chef was that he was open about not being discriminating about food and not dubious about going anywhere besides a supermarket to buy food.
In the first episode of the series, “Lettuce Begin,” after Mr. Berger and the chef, Mr. Sargent, sample Bibb lettuce moments after it has been pulled from the ground, Mr. Berger is underwhelmed.
“I tasted the lettuce and it didn’t taste like butter to me,” Mr. Berger tells an interviewer. “He said it would taste buttery. Lettuce is lettuce.”
The new series will be promoted widely with online advertising and through Facebook and Twitter accounts of both the brand and Mr. Sargent.
Mr. Rodgers, of BBDO, said the production team secretly interviewed the wildlife biologist’s wife to determine his favorite foods, and then brought her, and the couple’s adult son and daughter, along with them as part of the surprise dinner.
For his part, Mr. Thompson was told only to expect a visit from a crew from General Electric, a multinational conglomerate. “We just said it was something related to the G.E. brand,” Mr. Rodgers said. “We could have shown up with a jet engine.”
Read more in “Writing Naturally; A Memoir.” See UPNE tabs at the top of this page.