Dell Highlights the Dingy, Humble Beginnings of Today’s Popular Brands

Computing icon begins new chapter by celebrating startups

Dell seeks to recapture its entrepreneurial spirit in new work from Y&R and VML, including this "Beginnings" spot that shows small apartments, basements and other venues where modern brands were born. 

Companies like TripAdvisor, Whole Foods and Skype, all of which use Dell products and services, serve as the stars of the spot. (Apparently, Dropbox was conceived on a bus. I did not know that.)

At the end, we see the University of Texas at Austin dorm room where Michael Dell sold PC upgrade kits in 1984, emphasizing the company's startup roots. The spot, directed by Tomas Jonsgården of Anonymous Content, comes as Dell, newly privatized and refocused on enterprise systems and cloud computing, prepares to write its next chapter.

Now, Dell's no startup, but a high-tech behemoth, so this strategy seems kind of risky, as it almost dares critics to call out the message as disingenuous. Still, the company is entering a new phase, so the approach works well enough, and the spot feels legitimately humble and less like a brag. Plus, the visuals are memorable, if only because you don't expect Dell to present 60 seconds of drab facades and spaces devoid of people and technology. Such muted imagery captures the lonely uncertainty of the startup experience and makes "Beginnings" seem more heartfelt than ads that cast their wares as shiny eye candy.