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GE Aerospace’s First TV Ad Takes Flight

June 13, 2024 | by Chris Norris

Ask a random stranger to pitch an ad for GE Aerospace and they may give you some stock themes and images: power, speed, engineers calculating pressure ratios. But in its first commercial since becoming an independent company, GE Aerospace aimed for an unexpected and powerful emotional space: care, patience, and parental love. These are the resonant chords the spot “Emotional Launch” strikes in all of 60 seconds, an homage to the qualities behind every engine the company sends out into the world. 

The short film begins with a guitar picking out a spare melody as a lone voice sings: I was raised by careful hands / Yeah, they made me who I am. With that original song playing in the background, the camera closely observes GE Aerospace employees as they design, build, assemble, test, and prepare a GEnx engine. When the massive assembly is pulled away on a trailer, a “Baby on Board” bumper sticker becomes visible on its mud flap. 

“We invent them. We design them. We build them,” a narrator intones. “And one day, we have to let them soar.” 

“For our first commercial as a stand-alone company, we wanted not only to build awareness of our GE Aerospace brand, but also to share the story of the care, emotion, and pride our employees put into their work,” says Chief Brand Officer Melissa Washko. “We decided not to use actors and instead filmed our employees working on our GEnx engine at our advanced testing facility in Peebles, Ohio. We are proud of our employees’ commitment to our customers and to the roughly 900,000 people who fly with our technology under wing at any given moment.”



Sharing the Story 

“What this ad is saying is really true,” says Julia Phillips, advanced lead engineer in mechanical design on the GEnx compressor, who appears in “Emotional Launch.” “I really do consider the GEnx engine and, more specifically, the parts that I work on like my baby, like my children. They chose a great way to depict the care that everyone really does give to these engines from start to finish.”

While she’s a seasoned engineer, this was Phillips’ first time working onscreen. And the ad did require a few minor adjustments. She works nearby in Evendale, Ohio, so before filming began, she drove to the Peebles site to prep for the shoot. “Wardrobe was the most fun,” she says, recalling a stylist who allowed her to nix a suggested sweater vest. “I was like, ‘No, I look like a nerd. Let’s not present female engineers as nerds; we’re cool.’” 

At the test facility, the production quickly constructed a convincing version of the Evendale office where Phillips and her colleagues work: a suite of walls, tables, and desks built within the much larger shop floor. Here, the director had Phillips sit typing at a computer and, per his instructions, cogitate productively. “He was like, ‘OK, Julia, sit back and look like you’re thinking about something,’” she recalls, laughing. “So I sat back, kind of looked away from the camera, and pretended to think really hard.”

Phillips will await her co-workers’ verdict on the authenticity of her performance, but she’s struck by how easy it was to deliver. “It felt very natural,” she says. “What I do every day is sit in front of a computer. [It’s] actually really interesting, so it was nice to have that represented accurately.”


It Takes a Village to Raise an Engine

Phillips also appreciated that the production schedule gave her downtime to spend with her real-life colleagues on the GEnx product line. Two fellow employees in the ad work on the high-pressure turbine (HPT), Phillips works on the compressor, one other woman works on the turbine, and two others are in systems. “My colleagues and I have a very tight focus,” Phillips explains. “Our whole day-to-day is optimizing this one specific section so that it’s easier on our shop employees, while the two systems people get involved if things affect safety, performance, reliability, cost, or schedule. It was great to be with my co-workers doing something we’d do every day. Only in a different space, in different clothes, with super-bright lighting.” 

Image and video credit: GE Aerospace

The day of the shoot, Phillips learned that the commercial, which began airing nationally on June 3, would put her face on TV screens around the world, including during the NBA Finals, which kicked off on June 6, the Summer Olympics next month, and this fall during the NFL season. She immediately told her husband, who happens to be a professional actor. He was impressed. But he’s not the family member Phillips is most excited to show the ad to. “I have three young girls, seven, four, and one,” she says. “And just to be able to represent women in engineering, for my girls to be able to look at this ad and say, ‘That’s my mom. That’s what she does’ — it’s gonna be really cool.” 

Phillips recognizes a continuity that runs through both parenting her daughters and the kind of slow, steady stewardship that she and hundreds of colleagues are giving the GEnx. “I didn’t design these parts — because the design process is like 20 years long — so by the time I picked them up, they had been designed a certain way, they had been fielded, and I know their whole history. I’m invested, personally, in making sure they’re the best they can be.”

With “Emotional Launch,” she feels they’ve captured the spirit of the work everyone does at GE Aerospace. “These engines are so complex,” she says. “Everyone takes that same care and dedication for every single part on the engine, and that is how we provide safe and reliable products that we can deliver over and over again, every day.” 

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GE Aerospace is a world-leading provider of jet and turboprop engines, as well as integrated systems for commercial, military, business and general aviation aircraft.