Dell’s RFP: People Needing People

When Dell confirmed earlier this month that it’s reviewing global creative duties on product-specific advertising, it was seen within the industry as another ominous sign for WPP Group  and its much ballyhooed global relationship with the company. Now, the RFP, obtained exclusively by Adweek, sheds light on what the holding company would need to do to keep the relationship moving forward.

Dell’s strategy: focus less on what it makes and more on whom it supplies.
 
Historically, Dell’s ads to consumers, business owners and public institutions have taken a hard-sell approach, touting product features and price. Signs of the shift toward a customer POV could be seen in last year’s “Take your own path” effort targeting small- and medium-size business owners.

The RFP, among other things, notes that the technology giant, which last year reported $52 billion in revenue, “aspires to become known as a provider of solutions — not just products — across all of its target customer segments.

Dell is evolving its brand strategy to better articulate the company purpose and values and position it for future growth.”

The RFP further explains that the company would like to be seen as “delivering technology solutions that enable people everywhere to grow and thrive.”

Sources described that statement as a foundation for Dell’s marketing going forward.

In play is about $30 million in revenue now shared mainly by WPP’s Wunderman in New York (ads for consumers, small- and medium-size businesses) and WPP’s Young & Rubicam in San Francisco (public institutions). Both agencies are expected to participate.

Dell intends to hold separate pitches for each business target in review (consumer; small/medium-size businesses; public institutions) and, in the RFP, notes that it may hire more than one agency.

WPP’s relationship with Dell began two years ago with the creation of a dedicated agency known as Enfatico, which devolved last year when Y&R and other units of WPP took the reins on the massive marketing services account. Total revenue across all services — including advertising, direct marketing, digital marketing, public relations, and media planning and buying — is around $140 million, said sources.

A key player in Dell’s shift in marketing strategy is Paul-Henri Ferrand, CMO for its consumer and small/medium business segments, said sources. Ferrand-or “PH” as he’s known-assumed his current role early last year after leading the Asia-Pacific South region as president.

A Frenchman, Ferrand joined the company in 2004 after four years at Nokia. He has also worked at Alcatel and AT&T. Sources said that Ferrand is among the key decision makers in the review, which began two weeks ago and won’t conclude until early next year.

The exit last week of Dell corporate CMO Erin Nelson isn’t expected to significantly impact the search, given its business-line focus, said sources. Last week, Dell appointed Karen Quintos, vp of marketing for global public businesses, to fill the global CMO slot. Quintos has been with the company for 10 years.

The company has launched a search to fill Quintos’ previous job; for the time being, Jim Middleton, director of North American public marketing, will absorb the duties, according to a Dell representative. Both Middleton and Quintos will participate in the review, the rep added.

The corporate division turnover comes at an inopportune time for Y&R on its global brand assignment for Dell. After more than a year of work, the agency had garnered approval for a new campaign and was poised to begin production when Nelson left, according to sources.

The agency, which runs that assignment out of its New York office, declined to comment, but the RFP notes that Y&R is “developing a new global brand platform that will span the breadth of the company’s marketing communications efforts.”

Dell’s RFP appears to have been widely distributed by the consultancy managing the search, Select Resources International in Santa Monica, Calif. Sources estimated that more than a dozen agencies received it, including those within major holding companies like Interpublic Group (The Martin Agency, Deutsch/LA, Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Agency twofifteen, among others); Omnicom Group (DDB); Publicis Groupe (Saatchi & Saatchi); and Havas (Arnold); as  well as some independents (Mother).

Based on agency responses, which are due Friday, Dell will select six to eight shops for each business segment assignment, according to the RFP. Client executives will then visit the shops before narrowing each list to four.

As planned, the public institution pitch will come first, in December, followed by pitches for consumers and small/medium businesses in January.