I was fortunate enough to work on the Dell account for a few years. It’s a tough business. Or at least it was back then. The clients were really nice and respectful and I thoroughly enjoyed working and collaborating with them. But it was tough. With a culture that examines advertising performance almost hourly, Dell’s approach to advertising has historically been transactional in nature.
Remember the headline, “Double your memory. Double your hard drive.”? I wrote that. And about 400 more just like it. There was direct response print, FSIs, catalogues, and a little bit of radio. Not really glamourous, trips to the podium kind of stuff but we certainly added a ton of value to their business and I’m kinda proud that I played a miniscule role in their ascension. While we can all debate whether their approach is best, it certainly is a valid one given their success.
When I heard that Sid Lee won a piece of the worldwide Dell business, my first reaction was “Good for them.” I’m always happy when Canadian agencies do well on the global stage and I think it makes the rest of us better. But the more I thought about it, well… the more I had to think about it.
Sid Lee’s win wasn’t an obvious one.
Sid Lee has been taking a unique approach to advertising for the past few years by integrating architecture, retail design, urban planning, and experiential activities into brand communications. They were recently named Agency of the Year by Marketing Magazine and they’re about to launch the one of the largest global advertising campaigns that Adidas has ever done. Impressive.
Normally, creative hot shops avoid accounts like Dell, afraid that the agency reputation will suffer when the work falls well below the creative bar they’ve established. They continue to fight the good fight, focus on awards, maintain their standards and take on a “Call us, we won’t call you.” approach to new business. Meanwhile, the rest of us sit back and wait for the “jump the shark” moment when they take on a client that is more about the financial rewards than the industry awards.
Well, at the height of their creative reputation, Sid Lee has done the exact opposite of what most of us expected them to.
And hear me now: Sid Lee has NOT sold out. They’ve matured.
Whenever an award winning creative’s ego gets too big, I want to point to Dell and say, “Oh, you think you’re good, huh? Trying making THAT advertising brilliant.”
Well, Instead of whining about the work, Sid Lee put up their hand to try and make it better. And I’m curious to see what they’ll do with it. Congrats to Dell for going beyond the usual suspects to choose Sid Lee and Arnold (another shop with a great creative reputation) for its two new assignments as well.
With offices in Amsterdam, Paris, Toronto and Montreal, Sid Lee isn’t content to do edgy work for a small set of clients. I think they want to play with the big kids. They want to make money. They want to grow.
Some may call that selling out. I call it success and wish them luck as they strive for it.