c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

Recovering from a bruising battle to take itself private, Dell is introducing a business-to-business brand campaign on New Year’s Eve to promote its entrepreneurial spirit and that of well-known corporate customers like Whole Foods, TripAdvisor and Skype.

Developed by the New York office of Y&R, the advertising is an extension of the agency’s recent “Power to Do More” consumer-oriented television campaign. Previous spots featured a fifth-grader who made a film of herself flying over her school’s playground, and a businessman who created an “alternate universe” through computer-generated imagery while commuting on a train.

In February, Michael S. Dell, who founded the technology company in his dorm room at the University of Texas at Austin in 1984, announced that he and the investment firm Silver Lake Partners would take the company private in a $24 billion buyout; they succeeded in September after fending off investor Carl C. Icahn.

Dell sought privatization to help the company more easily shift from focusing on making personal computers, a declining business, to providing software and services for corporate clients. Speaking after the buyout was approved by shareholders, he called the company “the world’s largest startup.”

The central message of Dell’s new campaign — as stated in a 60-second TV spot — is that the company is “part of some of the world’s great stories, stories that began much the same way ours did, in a little dorm room, No. 2713.”

The spot shows “the little room over the pizza place at 315 Chestnut Street,” where TripAdvisor began in 2000, as well as the “modest first-floor bedroom in Tallinn, Estonia,” where Skype was started in 2003, and the “second floor above the strip mall at Roble and El Camino,” where Shutterfly began in 1999.

The spot illustrates, the voice-over continues, “the story of where every great idea begins. Where those with endless vision and an equal amount of audaciousness believed they had the power to do more. Time and time again.”

Similarly, a print ad features a variety of images depicting the businesses of many well-known Dell customers, including Salesforce.com, Gilt.com and The Knot. The copy says, “The power to do. Dell helps companies of all sizes do more for their customers every day. See the stories at Dell.com/DoMore.”

Online advertising focuses on individual customers. One group of ads features images of fresh produce, with copy that says, “Foods that are free of artificial preservatives, colors and flavors. So millions can enjoy what is fresh. Wholesome and safe. The power to do. Dell helps power Whole Foods Market.”

The campaign will begin on New Year’s Eve, with the TV spot running on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest” on ABC. In addition, starting on New Year’s Eve and running through Jan. 20, four billboards in Times Square will run animated ads similar to advertising appearing in other media. At the same time, New York taxis will carry a 30-second version of the TV spot.

After the Dec. 31 kickoff, TV advertising will run on network and cable news programs through Jan. 26 while another version of the spot will air on NBC during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The print ad will run in January and February in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Forbes, while online advertising will run through April on the websites of CNN, The Atlantic, IDG and others. Billboard advertising will also run from Feb. 24 through April at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

The New York office of VML, the digital marketing agency of Y&R, helped create the campaign; both are part of WPP.

In a blog post scheduled to be released with the campaign’s introduction, Karen Quintos, chief marketing officer of Dell, said 2014 would be a “new year and a new beginning for Dell.” The campaign, she added, “celebrates the dreamer and the visionary, the person who knows that game-changing innovation begins with an idea coupled with unrelenting passion.”

She declined to say how much Dell would spend on the new campaign. According to Kantar Media, in recent years the company’s largest advertising expenditures were approximately $307 million in 2009. In the first nine months of this year, it spent $73.5 million.

Sharmila Chatterjee, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management who studies business-to-business marketing, said the new campaign’s message was “completely consistent with our values and culture. America is the land of second chances; we have a culture of taking pride in falling down, and then getting up and learning from our mistakes.”

Matt Eastwood, a group vice president at IDC, said that by using the names of startups, instead of established companies, Dell was “trying to appeal to the next generation of buyer constructing and building an enterprise infrastructure from end to end.”


The message is aimed at small businesses, which will be “very important to Dell’s future,” said David Johnson, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. “Small businesses do not have the resources to do what large enterprises can do. They need vendors that can help them level the playing field with technology.”

Tim Calkins, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, suggested the campaign was also directed at Dell’s own employees. “I suspect it’s a difficult time for employees at Dell; it needs its employees to be proud of the brand, too,” he said.

Andrew C. Frank, an analyst for Gartner, warned that “an ad campaign can’t be the whole story for how Dell changes perception.” He said there must be a balance “between getting people’s interest through advertising and delivering something on the product side to make people believe the messaging is not just feel-good stuff.”