Critique: Mother Breaks 1st Dell Effort

NEW YORK Last I left off with Dell advertising, I was still making Dell Dude jokes. I mean, for critics, at least, the set-up was a gift: Here was this sober company making machines mostly for businesses, using an overly eager young guy with, let’s see how to put it … major stoner insouciance to represent the brand.

I still remember the full-page article in The New York Post on the day the actor playing Steven got busted on marijuana charges: “Dude, You’re Getting a Cell!” the headline screamed.

And then it all turns to putty—my memory of the advertising, I mean. I think there was a group of interns being trained, which seemed forced and hokey, and then I remember shots of the computers being assembled in a factory.

So who knew that this blast of color, presented in slice-of-life scenarios (if your life is like a fevered dream set to “The W.A.N.D.” from the Flaming Lips), could be the new Dell TV spot?

The work, the first from Mother in New York for Dell’s new Inspiron 4200, is certainly unexpected, and the “Happiness Factory”-as-seen-on-Japanese-TV aspect of it feels very of the moment. It actually seems quite joyous, if not entirely original, as there are aspects of Target mixed with Intel, and a tiny bit of the kaleidoscope intro ads for the iMac thrown in. It’s attention grabbing for Dell, though, which is selling the new Inspiron notebook in a range of eight colors. People are matched (or not) to their color choices, and each viewing of the spot provides more and more odd and sometimes trippy details of each surreal scene.

A similar graphic smartness makes the bus posters pop. There are basic dots of color with random photos of Inspirons and their owners thrown in, along with lines like, “A vegan did not choose green.” I also like, “A sourpuss chose yellow.” The only one that did not quite compute was, “A city slicker e-mailed in the sticks.” It would be easier to understand if it read, “e-mailed from the sticks.” The same phrases are used individually in the print ads, where the combination of the color palette and headline work best in delivering the Dell surprise.

And the new tagline, “Dell: Yours is here,” doesn’t seem specific enough. It alludes to “You’re getting a Dell,” but consumers won’t remember past lines. My reaction was, like, “Yeah, put it right there, buddy.” Still, the ads succeed in putting life into Dell, making the PC a little less P.C.

—Barbara Lippert is an Adweek columnist.


“Colors” (Dell Inspiron)

Agency: Mother, New York

Creative directors: Linus Karlsson, Paul Malmstrom

Art director: Bill Moulton

Copywriters: Dave Clark, Todd Lamb

Producer (creative): Margaux Ravis

Production company: MJZ

Director: Tom Kuntz

Director of photography: Chris Soos

Line producer: Scott Kaplan

Editing company: Final Cut

Editor: Carlos Arias

Editorial producer: Rana Martin

Post-production producer: Carrie Van Der Busse

Graphics: Stardust

Inspiron Print

Producer (creative): Helen O’Neill

Photographer: R. Jerome Ferraro