Did someone spike my drink? Is this a flashback from the drugs back in college? Some kind of post-hypnotic suggestion?
I just saw a commercial from Dell and liked it.
Rather than dwell on specs, deals, Inspirons or Latitudes, this spot tells the story of a young girl who uses a computer to make her dream come true. It actually tries to engage on a human level.
It’s not that Dell hasn’t tried to connect with customers before, it just has a history of failing in spectacular ways.
Three things about this commercial stand out. First is the voiceover, which is that of the fictitious young Annie. This eliminates the fairly nondescript “cool guy” voiceover we often get when PC makers don’t pony up for a famous actor.
Next is the music. It’s quirky and fun, in a similar way to the first MacBook Air ad, which helped popularize Israeli singer Yael Naim and her song New Soul. Dell has tapped a little-known Texas band called The Strange Boys, using their song Be Brave. Good find. (And good reason for creative people to claim those nights at the bar as a tax deduction — you never know what bands you might discover.)
Last, there’s the production. As I mentioned in my previous article (Where do bad ads come from?), a lot of things can go wrong when you produce a commercial, especially a fanciful storytelling spot like this. Annie herself is charming (good casting) and the finished spot achieves a quality not seen in Dell ads for eons. Knowing the challenges a creative team can face with Dell, agency Y&R deserves kudos.
This is not to say that the spot is without issues. Thanks to the “rules” of PC advertising, poor Annie is forced at metaphorical gunpoint to break character at the end, saying “Powered by Intel Core processors.” This is what happens when razor-thin profit margins get companies addicted to Intel’s money.
And as long as we’re letting a little thing like reality intrude in this discussion, there’s also the fact that Annie could have done just as well had mom and dad bought her an HP, Acer or Toshiba. Dell’s me-too computers don’t come with additional daydream support.
But never mind the man behind the curtain. This isn’t an article about Dell’s business model, marketing budgets or long-term viability. It’s about Dell’s advertising — which, for the first time in memory, actually shows a sign of hope.
Can science explain this unexpected phenomenon? No, but maybe I can.
Just a few months ago, Dell shuffled its marketing personnel yet again and installed Allison Dew as VP of Global Brand and Consumer Marketing. I know and respect Allison. She supports creativity and understands the value of marketing. I admit that this is a wild theory, but maybe, possibly — she’s being allowed to do her job.
Dell does need to heed the old adage, “the fastest way to kill a bad product is with good advertising.” If it hopes to achieve real success, its customers must be delighted when they open the box. And it has a long way to go before it’s in any real danger of that happening.
But hey, if Annie can have her dreams, Dell can too.
If you’re curious, the Annie spot also comes in a 60-second version.