Adscam’s George Parker: for whom the Dell tolls

I must say, I nearly choked on my breakfast beer when I read that Dell is putting Yara Shahidi, the actress and model from the ABC sitcom Black-ish in ads and other promotions to tout Dell’s new slogan, “Expand Your Youniverse.” (Ouch!) Dell announced a multi-year collaboration with Shahidi.

As well as ads, she’ll advise the company on inclusive creative strategy. “Yara’s advocacy and passion for technology deeply aligns with Dell’s commitment to affect positive change in this world,” said a senior vice hack of Global Brand and Creative at Dell. Oh yeah, that’ll work. Just like when Intel hired Wil-I-Am as their Global Creative Director for millions and he gave the great unwashed advice on how to create better logos in this appalling video.

About the same time Blackberry signed up Alicia Keys as their Global Creative Director for millions, only to file for bankruptcy two years later. I grant you there’s a tiny shred of reasonableness to soda companies paying singers millions to pimp their products, but technology companies need their heads examining to engage in this farrago of fucktardliness. Could you imagine if someone had gone to Steve Jobs and suggested they hire Lady GaGa as their iAmbassador. He would have thrown them off the top of the building. The only time Apple used famous people was in the “Think Different” campaign, but those people made sense, and they were dead, so they were free. No wonder the guy was a genius.

Dell was also a major factor in one of Sir Martin Sorrell’s biggest fiascos. Remember when he created Enfatico? This was a WPP agency devoted to handling the Global (Don’t we just love to flog the shit out of that word in the ad biz?) Dell account. It promised to knock down the walls and blow up the silos. Gee never heard that hoary cliche before. No wonder the Enfatico logo was a sledgehammer.

It opened 10 offices around the world, hired thousands of people, produced lots of ads, for itself. And not a single campaign for Dell. After two years, the Poisoned Dwarf pulled the plug and it was shuffled off to a broom closet in Y&R, never to be heard from again.

So, why my interest in Dell? Cos for several years I wrote most of the Dell ads for Goldberg, Moser, O’Neil in san Francisco. This was back in the days when Dell only sold direct. The ads contained an 800 number (This was before the internet) So, if the ads didn’t work, Dell didn’t sell computers. They worked (He said modestly) and Dell sold millions of computers. All the ads directly compared Dell to Compaq, and had headlines such as “Lap of Luxury – Lap of Lunacy.” “Road Warrior – Road Worrier.” And my favorite, “Ow – Wow.” You get the idea.

On a final note… The 100 million dollar ad!

This is one of the ads I did for Ogilvy New York back in the eighties when I was freelancing for them (at triple my day rate!) in their doomed to failure bid to hold on to the Compaq account. During this effort, Dell sued Compaq for $100 million claiming that their ads were unfairly critical of their products. Compaq countersued Dell because they claimed that their advertising was in fact derogatory to Compaq! When the armies of $1,000 an hour lawyers working for both companies discovered that I was responsible for both campaigns, and that they each wanted me to testify on behalf of their respective clients, the whole thing was quietly dropped.

I trousered a shitload of money. Ah, the good old days.

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About George Parker

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George Parker has spent 40 years on Madison Avenue. He’s won Lions, CLIOs, EFFIES, and the David Ogilvy Award. His blog is adscam.typepad.com, which is required reading for those looking for a gnarly view of the world’s second oldest profession.” His latest book, Confessions of a Mad Man, makes the TV show Mad Men look like Sesame Street.

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