Dec 3, 2007

Dell and The Real Digital Revolution

So the ad world is, predictably, all aflutter about Dell’s decision to award their $4.5 billion account to WPP, with the understanding that WPP will create a brand new global agency whose sole purpose is to service Dell.

Many have pointed out why having a one-client agency is folly, so I won’t go there, because in my view, it’s really irrelevant.

What’s going to be relevant, in the wake of The Real Digital Revolution, is how good Dell’s computers actually are. Specifically how good they are in relation to their competitors similarly-priced computers.

Because no matter how good the new Dell ads are, consumers are going to go online first before they buy one. And if CNET tells them that the HP machine is the better one, then that’s the one they’re going to get.

Dell is a perfect foil for The Real Digital Revolution because they’ve built their business by having the best machine at the lowest price, relying heavily on bulk corporate sales for profit. Corporate sales guys being far more influenced by facts and figures than by clever advertising.

In consumer land, they’ve only had one memorable campaign, the unintentionally brilliant “Dude, You’re Getting A Dell” series that lasted from 2000 to 2003. And I say “unintentionally brilliant” because I get the distinct sense that the casting of Ben Curtis as Steven, the “Dell Dude” was a happy accident. At a time (2000) when millions of tech unsavvy parents were going out to buy their children a computer, the Dell Dude promised them that their kid wouldn’t get stuck with the dorky machine, even if it was the cheap one.

But back to the new agency: the most they can hope to do is to maintain brand consistency. As McCann’s efforts for Microsoft have shown, there’s not much you can do when everyone thinks your product is crap. Apple’s ads work because their products do: people really like iMacs and iPods and the like. So the product lives up to the promise.

The ball is now in Dell’s court. If they want their advertising to be great, they need to ensure their products are great too.

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