By Brendan I. Koerner
The Pitch While dropping knowledge on everything from falsetto singing to playing the double-necked air guitar ("like taming two beautiful snakes"), the overweight and moustachioed Mitch Ferrence finds time to praise the Dell DJ Ditty flash player as his most beloved possession.
Rip-Off Of Mitch harkens back to the old Fogdog.com commercial, featuring a band of nerdy joggers-cum-vigilantes in wacky sweatsuits. But then I found out the Ditty campaign was the handiwork of high-falutin' Seattle ad agency Cole & Weber/Red Cell (a subsidiary of ad-world behemoth Ogilvy & Mather). Look at their award-winning Rainier Beer ads, and notice the parallels—dumb, Everyman humor must be Cole & Weber's forte.
The Spin The goal here is to worm the Ditty name into the public consciousness by getting these cheeky videos cited by the likes of Fark and College Humor. Nevermind that the Ditty costs the same as a 512MB iPod Shuffle, or that it has an LCD and FM tuner thrown into the mix, plus a space-saving compression format. The Mitch Ferrence campaign isn't about flaunting specs—for now, Dell just wants you to think the Ditty is, er, "fun."
Counterspin Dell is fighting an uphill battle against Apple, which has played it straight with its popular silhouette-rocker ads. The Ditty campaign is counterprogramming: Dell can't compete on cool, so it's trying to seize the humor angle. But, honestly, when you're shopping for a new gadget, do you ever pick up a box and think to yourself, "Hey, this makes me laugh—I'm gonna buy it"? Nope, not unless you shop for gadgets at Spencer Gifts.
Takeaway Is Dell's advertising permanently cursed to be three years behind the times? First there was the irksomely sincere Dell Dude, who had a successful run before his real-life alter ego morphed into a kilted blunt smoker. Now comes Mitch Ferrence, dripping in irony and '80s nostalgia long after the sell-by date expired on those two trends. Dell's trying too hard, and they may regret not being more upfront about why anyone should buy a Ditty. After seeing every single Mitch video lesson, I can t offer one good reason to spend $99 on the Ditty instead of the Shuffle. I wouldn't be surprised if Dell soon regrets its decision to go ironic-slash-funny; they'd have been better off attacking the Shuffle with both barrels blazing. Maybe they should've hired the team behind that infamous Willie Horton ad instead.