Dell may boost PC ads 50% to top $60 mil

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Dell Computer Corp. is considering what could be about a 50% boost in ad spending. Separately, the booming PC seller is seeking a direct marketing agency.

A major spending boost "is being discussed but has not been approved," a Dell spokesman said.

Executives familiar with plans said Dell is considering multiple options, including several that would bump up spending by $20 million or more. A decision may not come for several months.


Dell last year spent $41.6 million in U.S. computer and business publications, said Adscope, and $1.2 million on a TV test, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco, handles.

Dell's first major TV campaign is one of the ideas under consideration. Dell has access to millions of dollars in broadcast co-op money from chipmaker Intel Corp., which pays up to half the cost of a TV buy.

The emboldened ad effort could give another boost to a booming company. Sales for the world's No. 1 PC direct marketer soared by 44% to $7.8 billion last year. Dell's U.S. PC shipments last year grew 71%, and market share jumped to 6.9% from 4.5% as Dell moved into the No. 4 sales spot.

The stakes are rising among PC direct marketers. Rival Gateway 2000 is choosing between J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago and New York, and D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Los Angeles, for its first global agency.

Separately, the spokesman confirmed Dell is reviewing for a direct marketing agency for Dell Direct, which handles sales to consumers and small business.


Dell Direct's estimated $10 million to $12 million direct account was at Lowe Direct, New York, until October, when five executives bolted to start Lieber, Levett, Koening, Farese, Babcock. The breakaway group had been running the Dell account, and Dell had Lieber Levett complete its fourth-quarter campaign.

Lieber Levett is expected to participate in the review. Another likely contender will be Grey Direct, a former longtime IBM Corp. agency. Grey Interactive last year won Dell's interactive account, while Grey Advertising handles Dell's Japanese ad account.

Lowe Direct won't be involved.

"Dell invited Lowe Direct to participate ... and we declined ... Our financials are very strong ... so we have latitude," said CEO Lynn Fantom. "We're pursuing new clients that share our philosophy about a working partnership."

As with Dell's previous direct and interactive reviews, Goldberg will on the selection committee.

Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo, Jane Hodges.

Copyright March 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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