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Coffee with Mimi

By MIMI BECKER

Contributing writer 

According to one source, in 2016 $195.6 billion was spent on advertising in the US. That figure was up from $183 billion in 2015. If you extend the line, you can project the 2017 numbers will be correspondingly higher. What effect does that massive outlay have on the general population? Obviously, it is considerable and acceptable as I doubt advertising budgets would exist if the corporate bottom line was not positively and directly impacted by the dollars spent. Who would watch the Super Bowl without the pre-hype of the anticipated hype?

The behavior of consumers is interesting. Often, I can’t remember what the ad is touting, particularly if it is clever. Is that the fault of the ad campaign? Is it my lack of commercial responsiveness? But, sometimes an ad will put a smile on my face and I will remember their point.

Such is the case of the Millie Dresselhaus ad currently running on regular TV. That little old lady is adorable. The visuals are clever; little girls dressed up as Millie for Halloween, Millie T-shirts, and newborns named Millie. What on earth is the ad selling and who is the vendor?

Millie Dresselhaus is a real person who accomplished real things. She is called the “queen of carbon science”. Are you in the market for carbon? It isn’t on my grocery list. Most of what Millie worked on is not even pronounceable by many people. So, who is selling what? Well, it is GE and they are touting their goal to employ 20,000 women in significant technology related positions by 2020. They appear to be on track to do so as they have 15,000 signed on the dotted line and just three years to reach their goal.

As ads go, Millie and GE are a homerun combination. But, isn’t the goal of any ad campaign your purchase of a GE washer or dryer this week? According to advertising theory for companies like GE the goal is the long run, end game. I only purchase those items, hopefully, once every 10 years, or so. Do I have a positive opinion of GE which could carry over for a few years? As I just bought a washer and dryer, it will be awhile before the next outlay. GE wants me to have a positive impression of their products so that when the next time is now, I make the desired purchase.

What makes me feel good about this ad? I am a woman and the mother of daughters, the grandmother of a granddaughter. Isn’t it great that a major American corporation would hang multi-millions of dollars on an ad campaign promising it will hire women into traditionally male dominated positions of significance? I’ll admit it, I like it.

Millie wasn’t just a woman scientist. Her biography would be the envy of any scientist. She shouldn’t be included in the annals of history with the caveat that she was a woman scientist. But, she was and it is. It took us this long and a few million GE dollars to appreciate and recognize her contributions in the mainstream.

Millie died in February of this year. I had no idea who she was before the GE ad campaign which aired during the Oscars and continues to run. I did a little research to see if the ad lady was a caricature or the real deal. Thankfully, it’s Millie.

In reality, the world does turn on what seem to be little noticed events which produce significant, often overlooked, outcomes because we overlook the potential sources as relevant. Imagine the doubting looks at MIT and Cornell when that little lady strolled around campus. Who took her seriously at first glance? Who was doubting her when she won the National Medal of Science in 1990 or the Presidential Medal of Freedom 2014?

I must disclose that our family has long been a fan of GE products. We have a history of family employed a lifetime with GE. However, I wouldn’t hang my hat on inferior products from any sentimental source. But, would I throw my patronage behind a company because of Millie Dresselhaus? Possibly.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am quite sure GE did their due diligence in the research on this ad. GE didn’t get to be a mega corporation on sentimental attachment to a sweet and cute lady figure in a red sweater. But, maybe this time they did and they were right.

But, won’t it be great when we get to a time in history when mega corporations just hired the 20,000 women scientists as a regular course of doing good business and didn’t have to mount an ad campaign to brag about it?

Will the mission of mega corporations continue to include the right things after the ad has run its course and we forget the adorable Millie Dresselhaus was actually a force to be reckoned with in the world of science?