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Dell Campaign Pushes DM Strengths

Dell Computer Corp. is pouring $70 million into its first-ever global branding campaign, which highlights the strengths of its direct-to-consumer business model.

“Dell is growing and is incredibly healthy and incredibly profitable,” said Dennis Ryan, executive creative director at J. Walter Thompson, Chicago, the creative force behind the campaign, “but to sustain growth and break into the next level, Dell has to add value to the brand and correct some misconceptions about mail-order companies.”

The campaign debuted June 14 and revolves around the tag line “Be Direct.” The ads, which include Dell's toll-free number and Web site, will roll out into other parts of the world this fall.

“We decided that branding — the way Dell does business — was an important thing to do,” Ryan said, “but we don't want to limit them to just direct selling. Direct is not just how they sell, it's the way they deal with problems. It's the way they handle service.”

Although Dell, Round Rock, TX, is interested in attracting consumers, the company's target audience is businesses, Ryan said.

“Dell is not talking to straight consumers,” he said. “That's what Gateway does, talking to entry-level, garden-variety consumers. What Dell does is to talk to businesses. Dell is willing to take the consumer. But, by and large, the people that Dell is trying to target have more experience.”

Print ads will appear in the June issues of major magazines, including Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Fast Company, Wired and Forbes; and in major newspapers. One ad, titled “Scissors,” emphasizes Dell's ability to cut costs; another, “Points,” highlights the direct link between Dell and its customers; and a third, “Building Blocks,” features Dell's customized computing.

The Internet advertising component of the campaign consists of 10 online banner ads, which were adapted from the print campaign and incorporate animation. The online ads appear at a variety of popular Web sites, including CNET, Wired and CNN.

In the introductory TV spot, dubbed “Maze,” a clever field mouse is forced to find his way through an elaborate maze to get to his cheese. “What's the best way to deal with obstacles? Eliminate 'em,” a narrator says as the mouse ignites a bomb that clears everything in his path.

“We tried to keep the campaign pretty visual,” said Ryan, who is working on additional spots and ads for the campaign. “We only used a voice-over, because if we used dialogue, that would impinge on the spot's ability to be a global branding effort.”

Until now, Dell's advertising has focused primarily on its products and has been targeted largely at computer-enthusiast and industry-trade publications, cable and local television and a few national newspapers. Dell is conducting its “Be Direct” campaign in addition to its ongoing product-oriented advertising.

J. Walter Thompson had proposed a number of campaign ideas to Dell, one of which featured the tag line “Fast Forward.”

“It's true that Dell moves you forward faster,” Ryan said. “But how ownable was the tag line? How specific to Dell was it? The worst thing we could do as an agency is to graft a personality or brand onto a company.”

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