Whether it's a Jeff Goldblum/Tim & Eric lightbulb informercial, inviting Matthew Dear to make music out of industrial machines, or just an arty Instagram shot a of jet engine, General Electric has proven itself to be a brand unafraid of experimenting with platform and format.
Next week the brand takes another step in its quest to showcase the scope of its scientific and industrial capabilities in a fun, relatable way by using livestreaming app Periscope to launch a week-long content extravaganza called #DRONEWEEK. Created with agency The Barbarian Group, the project will allow viewers to criss-cross the U.S. via Periscope and get a drone's eye view of some of the company's least accessible facilities where jet engines, locomotives, wind turbines and industrial machinery are made and tested to extremes, featuring interviews and expert commentary from GE scientists and technologists. It's like Shark Week for science and social video nerds.
"We’re always trying to tell the full picture of the GE story which is a complicated one, so any time we can talk about the various industries and variety of expertise and disciplines, we try to find unique and innovative way to do that," says GE's director of innovation Sam Olstein. "Drone Week allows us to showcase five different sites and five industries to give people a really cool perspective and peek at some of the stuff they don’t see often but does have an impact on their lives."
Day One will be in Houston, TX at GE’s Blow-Out-Preventer manufacturing facility, which produces subsea machines that are the last line of defense in controlling pressure in the most extreme deep-sea drilling environments. Day Two takes viewers to Peebles, OH where GE’s jet engine testing facility is located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. For Day Three, it's flying over the wind farms of Tehachapi, CA. Day Four is at GE’s locomotive manufacturing plant in Fort Worth, TX, where drones will take viewers through the one million square-foot facility and along the complex journey of the most powerful heavy-haul locomotive in North America. Finally, Day Five is in Greenville, SC at GE’s Power and Water testing facility where the world’s largest and most efficient gas turbines are tested. All the content shot next week will shared across the brand's YouTube channel and Facebook page after the initial Periscope run so people will be able to see highlights after the fact.
The dronecast will be on @GeneralElectric, with simultaneous interviews and commentary happening on @GEDronePilot. The latter account will come across as another commenter in the main feed to narrate what users are seeing and respond to viewer questions in real-time, like a tour guide for the livestream. Olstein says lessons learned during its Periscope effort at the NFL Draft illustrated the importance of interacting with viewers as the stream happens.
"We saw a lot of two-way dialogue—not just us broadcasting but the questions and feedback as the stream happens—so we really want to lean in to the interactivity of the medium," says Olstein.
Olstein is optimistic about the potential for #DRONEWEEK, hoping it may become its own annual event. "We’d love to scale this and think about how we could make it a regular thing or turn it into a bigger content franchise," he says. "So we’re hopeful that we get some beautiful, interesting content and it can build a foundation of things to come."