If you visit the Spring Break hall of fame in Daytona Beach, you'll find a special exhibit commemorating my antics over the years. There’s a shrine that pays tribute to the four nonfiction books I read during a senior-year trip with [redacted] and [redacted] to [redacted]. There’s a pavilion in which guests can relive the time I bailed on my final pre-break lecture to visit car dealerships with my mommy, who needed to test a range of seats for lumbar support. Those were heady times, friend. I partied like it was 1999 in 1999.
Nowadays, an active weekend is one that involves both napping and resting my eyes. But sound the words “spring break, dude!” in my general presence and, well, I instantly transform from sedentary suburbanite into an entity that’s less human being than category-five weather event. Whooo! Hear that, y’all? That’s the sound of a guy’s guy breaking out the Zubaz and getting ready to… oy, the knee again. It’s always the knee.
I nonetheless feel triple-betrayed by the most recent General Electric foray into brand video and social media, “GE Spring Break It.” Instead of the expected (and sorely needed, given the absence of such content on the Internet) beer-bikini walkabout, we’re treated instead to “Spring Break” in its most literal sense: things breaking other things, during the season of the year often referred to as Spring. While I am an unapologetic fan of wanton destruction, the campaign undermines itself by purging this destruction of every iota of joy and abandon.
I hate saying that. Not that we play favorites here in the Video Critique testing lab - we have eight times the integrity of George and Denzel Washington combined - but if ever there were a campaign to let pass without critical comment, it would be “Spring Break It.” GE generally doesn’t conduct campaigns of this kind for its customer-facing businesses, much less its more obscure industrial ones. We should all feel encouraged that the staid kids uptown are getting in on the brand/social action.
But once you commit, you gotta commit. And that’s why the video assets of “Spring Break It” are such a disappointment: they neuter a concept that, for all intents and purposes, should be viral catnip. Again, the singular purpose here is to show stuff getting crushed by stronger stuff (in GE’s words, “pushing our super materials to the limit to make the machines they go in even stronger”). How can that not be cool?
By depicting said crushing with restraint and reserve, that’s how. Take the clip showcased under the Twitter-tagged header “To Smash,” which details the “drop test” in which a machine best described as an industrial piledriver breaks the bodies and spirit of supposedly tough materials. In that last sentence alone, I count eight opportunities for awesomeness - not just in the WHOA CHECK THIS OUT sense, but in the brand-burnishing one as well.
Instead, GE sets the footage to the strains of twinkly synthesizers and slows it down, to the extent that each impact packs the wallop of an understuffed pillow. GE also makes the unfortunate decision to describe the action on the screen (in dumbed-down terms, at least - give them points for that): “By studying how composite materials behave, GE engineers learn how to make them stronger.” With that bit of C-minus-fourth-grade-book-report flair, the emasculation is complete.
Many times, when a megabrand like GE attempts a campaign like “Spring Break It,” the company gets dinged for not acting its age, for being too transparent in its desire for Internet love. In this instance, we somehow have the exact opposite scenario: a brand happening upon the single thing that could make it most interesting, then pulling back in the interest of… classiness? manners? decency? This makes no sense to me. Put “Spring Break It” down as one of the worst teases in recent brand-video history.