Dell's $70 mil branding acc't heading to JWT

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Dell Computer Corp. is said to have picked J. Walter Thompson USA to handle its estimated $70 million global branding account.

Assuming compensation terms are worked out and a contract is signed, JWT's Chicago office will prevail over Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco, and Y&R Advertising, New York.

The world's No. 3 PC maker has stressed that the incremental brand work does not affect the estimated $60 million U.S. product account handled since 1988 by Goldberg.

DISCUSSING COMPENSATION

Dell executives flew to JWT's New York office Nov. 19 to discuss compensation, said a person familiar with the talks. Dell Americas President Kevin Rollins last week declined to discuss the review status.

JWT was said to have pitched a concept around the theme "Fast forward," though one executive close to Dell said that is not the winning campaign.

A CHALLENGING YEAR

The win will cap a challenging year for JWT in the technology field: Its San Francisco office early this year lost Sun Microsystems' estimated $70 million global account to Lowe & Partners/SMS, San Francisco and New York. And JWT's Chicago office came in second in March to D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Los Angeles, as global agency of record on the estimated $70 million account of Gateway 2000.

Dell is the fastest-growing major personal-computer marketer and--along with Compaq Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.--one of the hottest players in this year's PC field. The PC direct marketer's U.S. shipments last quarter exploded 74.3% in a market that grew 22.9% from a year earlier, estimates Dataquest.

In August, Dell announced its first aggressive direct marketing push into the home market, where it has only an estimated 2% share.

Dell is counting on the brand campaign to give the company a consistent image across market segments and countries. Mr. Rollins said the primary target for brand ads will be businesses and institutions, not consumers.

BRANDING MORE IMPORTANT

The hiring of a global brand agency signals the rising importance of branding at a company that long has focused on sales and left countries to do their own advertising. Another sign of marketing's growing importance: Dell is quietly searching for a chief marketing officer to report to Chairman-CEO Michael Dell.

MILES PLAYED KEY ROLE

Dell board member Michael Miles played a key role in championing the need for the brand campaign, said an individual close to the review committee. Mr. Miles is a former chairman-CEO of Philip Morris Cos. and its Kraft Foods unit. JWT's Chicago office is a longtime Kraft shop.

JWT appears to have won over Dell with its combination of strategy, creative and global reach. Goldberg, pushing the theme, "No. 1 to corporate America and rising," did well but could not match JWT's network reach, said the person close to the committee. Y&R was "strategically off track," this person said.

Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo, Pat Sloan.

Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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