Can Burt Reynolds inspire lust for Michael Dell's products?

Guest post: Chris Matyszczyk takes a surreal tour of Dell's Star Power holiday shopping Web site featuring Burt Reynolds and other celebrities.If you searched the Web for the next month, how many times do you think you’d find the words "Michael," "Dell" and "lust" in the same sentence?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Guest post: Chris Matyszczyk takes a surreal tour of Dell's Star Power holiday shopping Web site featuring Burt Reynolds and other celebrities.

If you searched the Web for the next month, how many times do you think you’d find the words "Michael," "Dell" and "lust" in the same sentence?

In this week's quarterly earnings call, the Dell founder, chairman and CEO said he is focused on "product lust across our global brands.” This makes me wonder whether he has been sitting at home pouring over his "Boogie Nights: DVD over and over again.

You see, Dell has come out with www.yoursishere.com. A URL that, thankfully, has nothing to do with the Mark Wahlberg scene at the end of the movie. It does, however, have everything to do with real human beings getting worked up about another of the "Boogie Nights" stars, Burt Reynolds.

I confess that when my ZDNet handler suggested I look at Dell's star-studded (think "Dancing with the Stars") site I was not entirely excited. Somewhere in my head snored the thought that Dell represented great manufacturing prowess but humorless, unimaginative products.

However, my handler insisted. The fact that he was holding a garrotte
merely encouraged my enthusiasm. For the half-full drinkers, www.yoursishere.com is a step forward for Dell, as I cannot remember a single Dell ad since that dude who was subsequently caught by the police in alleged possession of a little baggie of marijuana.

For the half-empty drinkers, well, um, Burt Reynolds? I know that he’s supposed to have been rehabilitated over the last few years. But is rehabilitation the message Dell wants to put across?

The idea behind www.yoursishere.com is that in order to get the Dell product you want over these sacred holidays, you need to enlist Star Power so that people who would have otherwise bought you something useless will be persuaded to at least contribute to the purchase of something 'Dellightful.'

Dell lets visitors spam their friends and relatives (in a friendly sort of way) with video emails featuring the charming and self-deprecating Mr. Reynolds requesting contributions toward the products for which they lust.

Should you be concerned that Mr. Reynolds’ betoupeed and bebotoxed patter is not quite persuasive enough, you can turn to a variety of top-tier actors such as Vivica (A-less) Fox, Brooke Burns, Ice-T and Chuck Liddell.

I have asked my ZDNet handler to provide full-time security before I say that Mr. Lidell’s performance is very much less persuasive than his cameo in HBO’s "Entourage." Or even his cameo in "The Postman Always Rings Twice". (Remember that boy scout playing with the cash register? No, neither do I. But it’s Chuck.) Eye-control over the cue card is not one of his strengths.

And if I were going to be really critical, the stars’ individual scripts are far too similar to each other. It would have been, I think, far more successful if they had all been allowed to improvise. (An issue that critics have lamented at times regarding Dell’s engineers.)

Yet it is the presence of Estelle Harris, the 6th star in the Star Power firmament, that caused me the greatest pause for thought. Ms. Harris is, officially, 74 years old. Which makes her two official years more advanced than Mr. Reynolds.

If you’re not familiar with the name, she used to play George Costanza’s mom on Seinfeld. At first glance, her inclusion might not suggest a refreshment for the brand. But it just might be touched by the glitter of genius.

I am sure that Ms. Harris is living very well off her "Seinfeld" royalties. But she has also lent her voice to some of animation’s more interesting characters. Yes, she was Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story 2. But she was also Death’s Mom on Family Guy.

Dell may be sending unusually well-coded messages to critics, rivals, and its secret society of lovers. These are not messages of lust exactly.

Firstly, I think Dell is saying that if you want to get some cash out of people at Holiday-time, tap the soon-to-be-decrepit first. They’re less tech savvy and thus more gullible. And, they like to see crabby old people like themselves on TV.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Dell is saying this: We’ve got Death’s Mom from Family Guy. They canceled Family Guy in 2000. They did it again in 2002. But the People, Real People, ordinary folks who think Ice-T is cool, who think Burt Reynolds, Vivica (A-less) Fox and Brooke Burns are great actors, these people started buying DVDs of Family Guy in their millions. In fact, they bought the DVDs in so many millions that Family Guy came back to TV again in 2005.

It’s somewhat like Dell. Just when you think we’ve been canceled, we’ll show you we’ve got Death’s Mom on our side. HP has been nibbling at Dell's market share, but Michael Dell has some new, lusty designs and Star Power to turn the tables.

As Dirk Diggler would tell you, lust can come at you from the strangest directions. We will see if this slightly gerontophiliac step on the part of Dell will be a success. By the way, if any of you want to contribute to a Dell laptop for my Mum, she’d be ever so grateful. She’s 83.

Chris Matyszczyk has spent most of his career as an award-winning creative director in the advertising industry. He advises major global companies on marketing and creativity. Chris has also been a journalist, covering the Olympics, SuperBowl and other sporting events. He brings a non-techie's perspective to the tech world and a sharp wit to the rest of the world. Check out his "Pond Culture" blog.

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