DELL, GATEWAY FACE BUMPS IN AGENCY RELATIONSHIPS: WORK ON JWT CAMPAIGN SLOWS; RIVAL HIRES MCCANN

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Dell Computer Corp. has scrapped the "Fast forward" slogan initially proposed by new agency J. Walter Thompson USA but is moving ahead on an expected mid-May launch of its estimated $70 million global brand campaign.

Rival Gateway 2000, meanwhile, is believed to be considering major changes in its internal structure and management as its new president begins a new relationship with McCann-Erickson Worldwide.

New President Jeffrey Weitzen, a former AT&T Corp. executive, ended Gateway's troubled one-year term at D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Los Angeles, and hired former AT&T shop McCann on its estimated $50 million to $70 million account.

While the direct market for personal computers is booming, the three major marketers -- including No. 3 Micron Electronics -- face challenges from marketers such as Compaq Computer Corp. that have slashed retail prices.

Dell, the strongest direct player, scuttled JWT's slogan after concluding it didn't convey Dell's efficient direct approach and how it benefits customers.

Dell VP-Advertising Scott Helbing said in an internal memo this month that Dell was slowing development of the brand campaign while it worked out those issues. But Dell and JWT, Chicago and New York, are proceeding with production while they consider a new tagline. One signature spot in the works shows an elephant on a pogo stick, conveying how Dell will grow with customers and do anything to fit their needs.

TROUBLE WITH OK'ING COPY

Apparently JWT has had trouble getting copy approved. The agency's Chicago office, home base for Dell, underwent a management change last week (see Page 50), and the Dell executive who ran last fall's review, VP Tom Martin, is on an extended leave of absence.

Mr. Martin couldn't be reached at press time. A Dell spokesman denied trouble with the agency.

Dennis Ryan, exec VP-executive creative director at JWT in Chicago, said the relationship and campaign are on track.

Dell also is getting new management. Mr. Helbing joined Dell just this year, and J. Rene Ward, former ad chief at Toshiba America's computer division, is joining Dell with a title to be determined.

Gateway 2000, meanwhile, appears headed toward more change following the hiring of McCann, New York. McCann will handle non-trade media, creative, direct mail, events and corporate marketing.

Mr. Weitzen is expected to preside over a major reorganization, including changes in senior management, according to two people close to Gateway. Jim Taylor, senior VP-global marketing, is expected to step down from that position.

GATEWAY TEAM TO N.Y.?

There is talk Gateway could move its executive team to New York or to San Diego, where Chairman-CEO Ted Waitt lives.

Mr. Weitzen didn't return calls by press time.

McCann last week was scrambling to keep Silicon Graphics' $40 million account. Its San Francisco office snared that work just weeks before New York won rival Gateway.

Silicon Graphics finalist Arnold Communications, Boston, was making a play to get back in. There were signs late week that McCann would keep Silicon Graphics; the company is expected to decide early this week.

Contributing: Mercedes M. Cardona, Laura Petrecca, Judann Pollack, Pat Sloan.

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