Today, May 9, 2005, both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal carried an 8 page add for General Electric. The first page was about 70 percent white space with the following text:

Imagine if we suddenly discovered a new resource. An inexhaustible resource. A readily available resource. One that could help solve the problems of an energy-hungry world. At GE, we think we’ve discovered just that. It’s imagination. But maybe it’s more appropriate to call it ecomagination. We’re putting ideas into action by creating some very forward-looking technologies that does the job with greater fuel efficiency, lower emissions and reduce noise. At the same time, we provide services to help upgrade our customers’ existing technologies for better environmental performance. Maybe, in time, we can help make the water a little clearer, the trees a little happier, the sky a little bluer, and the world a little closer to the way it was made. Just imagine it.”

On part of this page was a small picture of a glass with the earth floating in water with a sapling coming out of the top and roots below. I think it was water. It could have been paint thinner.

The next two pages contained a head with the area for the brain partitioned into the following words: Continuity, Veneration, Time, Benevolence, Human nature, Self-esteem, Spirituality, Eventuality, Friendship, Caution, Individuality, Hope, Constructiveness, Imitation, Conscientiousness, Mirthfulness, Calculation and three partial words I could not read. Part of this gray brain simulation included a patch of green grass labeled (in two colors) ecomagination. The rest of the words were a dull gray.

The next two pages showed a picture of a diesel engine about to run over a daisy and the text: “Can technology and the environment peacefully coexist? Ecomagination answers yes with the Evolution Series locomotive. Who would have dreamed that a 415,000 lb. diesel locomotive could have an environmental conscience? The Evolution locomotive is designed to me more fuel efficient and more powerful while it exceeds stringent EPA emissions standards, making the air cleaner and clearer for all. No small technological feat. This is the “little” engine that could. And will.”
Underneath was the GE logo with the words “imagination at work”.” About half these two pages was white space.

The next two pages showed a large wind turbine with a squirrel crawling up the tower (a highly questionable feat for a squirrel). The text was:
“Are we letting one of the world’s cleanest and most renewable power sources slip through our fingers? Here’s where we apply a little ecomagination. (possible ecomagining a squirrel climbing vertically up a smooth metal surface?) GE Energy is one of the world’s leading suppliers of wind energy products (and I think also nuclear reactors). Not only is wind energy renewable and easy to harvest, but one GE wind turbine can produce enough electricity for about 400 homes each year. Well worth a few bad hair days.”
The logo was repeated. These two pages were about 75% white space.

The final page contained only the word “ecomagination” and the logo again with the words “imagination at work”. The background was blue rather than white. About 98% white (or blue) space.

I decided to apply a little “ecomagination”. I measured the area of the 8 pages (each 13 ¼ inches by 23″) in the New York Times. The total square inches used for this 8 page ad was 2420 square inches. In Arial 11 point this letter fit on one page, 8.5 x 11 for a total of 93 sq. inches, or about 96% less area than the GE add. I should probably allow 4 square inches for each of the 4 graphics, adding 64 inches. This approach would save about 93% of the paper. I wonder if GE pays bonuses for good ecomagination work.

I was thrilled with my first try at ecomagination. I was skeptical at first because I didn’t believe that GE had discovered imagination. I had checked my dictionary and found the word was several centuries old while GE was founded relatively recently. But it worked! However, I don’t think the locomotive has an environmental conscience. If it had, it would kill itself.

In checking with the trees that GE said were a little happier, I was told that this was not so when they figured out how many of their brothers and sisters had been massacred for this ad. But they really cheered up when I told them about my ecomagination exercise. The daisy and the squirrel were also complementary.

I think I’m going to get my next wind turbine from Vestas.

Pat Murphy works with
Yellow Springs, Ohio