As client communication director at Omnicom Group's OMD in Chicago, Mr. Habeck has worked on Dell's account since 2001, when the media agency and its sibling DDB Worldwide snagged it from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe and Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide. At the time, Dell's spending had been $325 million, but it ballooned to $473 million last year, according to the company's annual reports.
"We never approached it as `direct.' We approached it as `highly accountable,"' Mr. Habeck says. "We talk a lot about above- and below-the-line stuff. I'd like to remove the line altogether."
The 39-year-old Mr. Habeck started his career in Detroit as an assistant buyer for two local McDonald Corp. co-ops at a small Interpublic shop that has since disappeared. He was lured to sibling McCann Erickson Worldwide for McDonald's, only to see McCann lose the business three weeks later.
Mr. Habeck shifted to planning for General Motors Corp., and in the mid-1990s was charged with showing GM and his McCann bosses the value of the then new Internet.
By 2000, Mr. Habeck had become so proficient that he helped launch the interactive agency Tribal DDB at his employer of three years. Then it was on to a south Florida dot-com as chief marketing officer, but that combusted within six months and it was back to DDB as group media director on Lands' End and FTD.
Mr. Habeck is known for exceeding previously lofty goals, says Claire Bennett, Dell director-consumer electronics marketing. She says Mr. Habeck is creative when it comes to different media outlets, just as competitive and relentless on cost and results as are his accounts, and he enjoys the respect of his staff and the media companies with which he deals.
While Dell had started to step up TV about two years ago, "a lot of what Bob did was keep pushing that further. We had a great story to tell. He encouraged us to do a lot more broad-reaching ... vehicles to reach more consumers," Ms. Bennett says. "We knew we had a winner ... there was a lot of upside."
From the end of 2000 through last year, Dell's revenue jumped 30% to $41.4 billion. Even though the campaign was eventually dropped for a more business-oriented one, the campaign's "Steven" icon made a lasting impression on consumers and businesses.