Dell, Devo Connect

NEW YORK Here’s Part Deux of Mother’s new Dell campaign. A spot for Dell XPS features the song “Work It” by the cult band Devo, in its first major release in 17 years. As a band, Devo was famous for the line “Are we not men?” And this spot comes back with the resounding answer, “No, we are not men! We are robo-women!” As with Mother’s initial ads for Dell’s colorful computer notebooks, the spot is a visual knockout. Every cut is arresting, and some of the graphic touches are inspired, like when the ’80s-by-way-of-’60s futuristic women spell out the brand name in wrenches, hammers and other tools. But while the basic concept of showing highly stylized, bitchin’ factory women building an engine certainly gets attention, I don’t think it necessarily works for selling computers. As opposed to futuristic, it seems kind of retro. (Wow! Powerful women in Spandex building an engine! What’s next?) And even if it’s supposed to be a joke, couldn’t the idea of the big engine make it seem that Dell technology is stuck in the ’80s? The music is great, and the visuals are certainly true to Devo’s legendary videos (although, to be fair, their whole point was to mock consumerism and toxic industrial culture. That’s why they broke out the yellow chemical protection suits for a famous late-1970s Saturday Night Live appearance.) Overall, the idea that Dell is now hip to design resonates, as does the attention-getting music. And the obvious aesthetic sophistication of the spot will no doubt make the members of Devo happy: their previous foray into advertising resulted in them rerecording “Whip It” for an irony-free Swiffer commercial. They’re on record saying it was a mistake. By contrast, this spot is great for the Devo image. And it will no doubt have huge appeal for the male robot demographic. As for the rest of us, we could easily ask, “Are we not Dell?”