August 7th, 2008

Dell Sponsors A&E Reality Series

By Andrew Hampp
Advertising Age

'We Mean Business' to Showcase Company's Wares While Helping Troubled Entrepreneurs

If a new reality series for A&E is any indication, Dell’s marketing initiatives under its unique new agency structure are going to be pretty hands-on.

Dell has made a multimillion-dollar investment as the exclusive technology sponsor of “We Mean Business,” a small- to medium-size-business makeover series premiering on A&E at 10 a.m. Sept. 6. Dell technology and retail assets will be integrated throughout the half-hour episodes, from laptops and servers to point-of-purchase solutions to help streamline costs and day-to-day operations for local businesses such as bakeries, specialty stores and salons.

Experts to the rescue
Co-hosted by “Apprentice” winner Bill Rancic, tech guru Katie Linendoll and interior designer Peter Gurski, the show will feature business owners confronting major challenges such as budget crunches, staff cuts and design overhauls. Think of it as “Flip This Business.”

The deal is one of the first major marketing initiatives for Dell under its new agency, Enfatico, the WPP group agency—briefly and controversially known as Synarchy—created to manage all creative and media duties for Dell’s $4.3 billion account. Although the original negotiations for the show started with Dell’s old agency partners at Interpublic Group of Cos., all production and marketing for the show have since been handled under Enfatico.

Robert Fields, manager-advertising and partner marketing for Dell’s U.S. Small and Medium Business group, said the division was one of the first to sever all its relationships with its previous agencies, including independent Mother, which is still handling some creative work for Dell’s consumer division. Enfatico-created ads promoting the show will start appearing in September issues of business magazines such as Inc., Wired, Fortune Small Business and Entrepreneur, in addition to a TV campaign that kicked off July 31.

“Before we go out with a Dell campaign, we want to make sure they are 100% up to speed and fully knowledgeable so that we can toss it out there to them,” Mr. Fields said of the new agency relationship.

The marketing model for the show is also unique in that it was structured to drive sales of Dell’s products and services among business owners on both A&E’s and Dell’s websites. Peter Olsen, A&E’s senior VP of ad sales, said, “I think we struggle in mass and somewhat niche media to get that much closer to the purchase of the product. ... This is a partnership we hope that can bring immediate results.”

Look no further
Bearing that in mind, AETV.com and Dell’s microsite will cross-promote opportunities for viewers to purchase products and services seen on the show. “We don’t want to make the consumer go off and search Google to see how they can acquire the service they saw on episode two,” Mr. Fields said.

Dell has committed to eight episodes for the show’s first season on A&E, and already has plans to revisit the local businesses featured on the show in six to 12 months. The results from each business’ makeover will then be featured on Dell’s “We Mean Business” microsite to show the impact Dell’s products and services had from a revenue and growth perspective. “At a minimum we’ll be going back and touching base with them. We’re not just handing them keys to a shiny new car, we’re showing them how well they can use it,” Mr. Fields said.

Dell’s small- and medium-business efforts represent a third of the company’s global business and are one of five strategic global priorities for Dell at a corporate level. There are 72 million small and medium businesses worldwide, and 24 million PCs were sold to them in the first quarter of 2008 alone, according to International Data Corp.

Start of something big?
Should the show take off, it could also represent a major shift in how Dell SMB approaches brand advertising, having spent nearly all of its $3 million measured media budget in 2007 on print, according to TNS Media Intelligence. “Six months from now ... I anticipate we’ll get a lot of good education on this,” Mr. Fields said. “We want to leverage this as much as we possibly can, and as a bridge to maybe even bring in new customers we weren’t communicating with before.”

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