Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rise of the Engineer

I rarely watch TV commercials anymore but its NFL playoff time and during a game last weekend, the Ford commercial showing how a liftgate can be opened by waving a foot caught my eye.

When not showing pictures of feet, this commercial focuses on an engineer by face and name, Vince Mahe, one of four engineers featured in Ford Escape commercials.
Vince Mahe, the engineer behind the hands-free liftgate, was born in France and moved to the United States when he was 10. All around the world, Mahe noticed people often have their hands full. So Mahe and team engineered a way for people to open the liftgate of the all-new Escape with a simple kicking motion under the rear bumper.
There is also a series of new IBM commercials (can't find the videos online) where an IBM researcher walks into the frame of a commercial and says something like "I'm so-and-so and I'm an IBMer helping you analyze data to target your customers".

Wasn't long ago that companies hid their scientists and engineers, only selling the product. We're seeing a new time where engineers and scientists tackling societal problems, big and small, are more forefront and center. Not since the 60's has it been this cool to be a geek.


  1. It is the rise of the geek, Lance. Very soon, instead of complementing someone's eyes, boys and girls all over the world will remark how sexy it is that he/she can't take his hands off his/her computer/tools/instrument/books/etc.

    High School Girl 1 - OMG, he's so cute!
    (camera pans into a slim, neardy boy with large glasses)
    High School Girl 2 (*blushing*) - Yeah I know! I wish I was part of that secret inner world that he goes into when he is programming!

    Oh and if you imagined that was being said by two hot blondes, think again!, actually it was a brief exchange by two petite brunettes, that happened while they were text-messaging someone else about the science project they're preparing for next week!

  2. I've noticed this too. I have a feeling that companies are becoming increasingly aware and open to the idea that their engineers are coming up with great ideas bottom up instead of top-down, and appreciating them publicly is their way of saying thank you.

    Blackberry came out with a great video late last year dedicated to developers. If you haven't seen it, it's pretty great:

  3. I am 24 years old and all my life I remember watching "dentists" or "health experts" suggesting some toothpaste or some non-prescription parapharmaceutical (creams,herbal supplements... )

    I agree that this is a kind-of new trend. I call it the "Apple syndrome". In TV ads, it features a hip and cool engineer/scientist who apparently has a life and thinks outside the box, usually looking at the sky because he totally lives in the future and all... and that guy designed this product and you know what, he's supersmart and successful.

    So guys, want to be like him? Buy this. Ladies, want a man like him? Buy this. Which boils down to old classical ads.

    I don't know if there's such a thing as "marketing homework" in some related degrees, but if there is, there should be bonus points if the guy is also not your archetype ad model but a geeky guy with "average looks" (i.e. you don't get blinded by his smile - think Leonard from Big Bang Theory"). Then, everyone can relate more to him.

  4. Didn't Intel do something like this, but the "Engineers" featured in the commercials were just actors and the names made up?

  5. hi lance, a long time ago in a galaxy far away when I got my undergrad BS, the school I went to had a good engineering college, and the CS was good too, but not as academically rigorous! the engr college was significantly more difficult at the undergraduate level both for entrance requirements and final graduation. (the engr school had a 2/3 dropout rate!) so I went for the hard stuff! best of both worlds... software engr... no regrets! it also pays better, wink =)