Nov 10

Dell Streak’s moment of truth

Of all those watching Dell’s new ad for Streak 5, two groups of people are probably more nervous than the rest.

First, of course, is Dell. Having spiraled for years, they crave a hit in two hot categories where they’ve been mostly invisible: smartphones and tablets. Then there’s Mother, the agency currently handling Dell consumer marketing. They could use a creative home run just as Dell embarks upon a formal review to hear pitches from other agencies.

Unfortunately, it comes off more like a bunt pop-up. (Last baseball metaphor till spring, I promise.)

The device itself is a bit of a puzzle. Streak 5 is either an oversized smartphone or an undersized tablet. It’s hard to imagine it being a hit for two obvious reasons. What’s most seductive about tablets is multi-touch on a spacious screen. And the whole point of mobile technology is to fit easily in your pocket — which this device doesn’t. (Never mind the fact that Streak is born with the already out-of-date Android 1.6.)

But if the size of the screen is the reason for Streak 5’s existence, and Dell believes this is the “sweet spot” between two popular form factors — you’d never get that from this ad. Streak comes off more like a smartphone, only casually described at the end as a “pocket tablet.”

Even more damning, the characters in this commercial don’t do a single thing with their Streaks that couldn’t be done with a smartphone. So what’s the point of carrying around this extra bulk again?

It seems that Mother is more focused on helping Dell grow a personality than define the Streak. But they aren’t helping. In context of such past embarrassments as Lollipop and Doorway, they appear to believe that quirky people, dancing people — or better yet, quirky dancing people — are key to reviving the Dell brand. Years later, however, Dell’s brand personality remains confused. We can all agree, “quirky” is not it.

I do hope Dell is preparing its defense for the International Court of Branding, because they appear to be serious about this double dose of theme lines. This ad ends with “You can tell it’s Dell,” followed immediately by “The power to do more.” Pick one, please. This is such a basic violation of advertising principles, it’s surprising that even Dell would do it.

Dell has every right to be nervous about Streak 5. But who knows. Maybe it will be a surprise hit, Dell will suddenly be seen as an innovator and Mother will ride this advertising success to a fat new contract. I’d just hate to see the Vegas odds on that one.

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