Andy and Lana Wachowski, the sibling team behind the Matrix trilogy and Cloud Atlas, have helped resurrect The Matrix for a television commercial. The 30-second spot, for General Electric's Brilliant Machines campaign, will air on Saturday Night Live on April 13 and features Matrix star Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith.
In the commercial, created by BBDO New York, Agent Smith walks through a fictional hospital and merges with various software GE runs inside the facility. As Smith sees how the software uses data to connect patients with doctors, nurses, and hospital equipment, the Matrix villain explains the basics of the advertiser’s industrial Internet services (watch for the kicker at the end which employs the film’s famous, color-coded device). The commercial was directed by David Gordon Green of Pineapple Express fame.
Why The Matrix and Agent Smith? The Brilliant Machines campaign, which promotes GE’s use of big data in hospitals and government to reduce waste times and inefficiency, uses classic geek pop culture icons to reach out to the public. Speaking to the masses about Hadoop and aggregate data analysis encourages eyerolls, but beloved television and movie imagery doesn’t. Previous commercials from the campaign featured Knight Rider's KITT and Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
As this is 2013 and this is a viral advertising campaign, GE also created a Tumblr of cute robot photos and footage.
"We launched Brilliant Machines to bring the concept of the industrial internet to a large audience," GE’s Linda Boff told Co.Create. The Matrix commercial is connected to a website, also featuring Agent Smith, called "How Software Sees It." On the site, Agent Smith walks the audience through a digital hospital recreation and shows how GE’s data and hardware improves patient care. As Boff put it, the challenge for GE was to "tell a story of productivity with machines."
According to General Electric, this is the first time the Wachowskis licensed out Matrix plot points for advertising. "Part of the reason they agreed was because of the previous installments in the campaign—they loved the use of science fiction," Boff said.
The Wachowskis’ ambitious 2012 film Cloud Atlas is headed to DVD and digital release this May. In the meantime, the duo are directing a new science fiction series for Netflix with scripts written by Babylon 5's J. Michael Straczynski.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Lana and Andy Wachowski directed the television commercial. The director is David Gordon Green.