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 Advertising Mascots - People

Steven the Dell Dude GuySteven the Dell Dude Guy - We've seen his kind before: Jeff Spicola (Sean Penn) the pot-smoking stoner with the glazed eyes in the classic 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High; Cody Lambert (Sasha Mitchell) the zoned-out surfer-dude with an over-the-edge personality on the 1991 ABC sitcom STEP BY STEP; and the "Party on, Dude!" teenagers Bill S. Preston and Ted "Theodore" Logan from the 1989 film and subsequent 1992 TV series BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURES. Well, Dude, Dell, a Texas-based computer company, adopted such a character for a series of surprisingly successful commercials.

The character in question is Steven, a.k.a. the Dell Dude, a zany, enthusiastic pitchman and techno-geek who advocated the advantages of Dell products to friends and neighbors while dropping phrases like "Dude, you got a Dell", "We're getting a Dell, dude!" or occasionally chastising a consumer saying "Dude you should of bought a Dell!"

In reality, Steven, the Dell Dude is actor Benjamin "Ben" Curtis, a 22-year-old native of Chattanooga, Tennessee who went to New York to study drama at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, and then landed the cushy role of selling Dell computers to the consumers of our fair nation.

The Dell Dude campaign, which first appeared in 2000, featured ad spots with Steven playing a "Santa's little helper" elf in a mall, a lurking dude at an electronics store, a high school graduate delivering a speech, an employee at a Lost and Found department, or a college student, amongst other things.

The character became so popular that Dell spun-off a clothing line called "Dude Gear" that sold baseball caps, notepads, book packs, T-shirts, and CD cases. Why Dude Gear"? Well, according to Kurt Kirsch, the Director of New Business Development at Dell "Consumers can't get enough of Dude; so we are giving them some stylish ways to express their enthusiasm."

According to the Wall Street Journal, Dell's market share went up 16.5 percent – more than double the previous year, after introducing the Steven the Dell Dude ads.

The success of the Dell Dude campaign afforded actor Ben Curtis the opportunity to pay for his college bills and his living expenses near Gramercy Park in New York City. His hobbies include magic, soccer, playing guitar, dancing and rock climbing. Curtis began doing magic at age 4 and has been a professional magician since age 13. The young Tennessee native, who played soccer, football and a cheerleader at McCallie School, was discovered by Dell's former New York agency, Lowe Worldwide.

In April 2001, Dell moved its $200 million account to another agency, DDB Chicago where Curtis continued to play his now famous Dell Dude role.

Curtis defended his energetic Dell Dude persona by saying "He's not a slacker. He's more cunning" and that "You can hate it, you can love it, you can laugh at it, you can turn it off, but I mean it's there."

Consequently, the Dell Dude character has been called perky, in-your-face, exuberant, bothersome, irritating, obnoxious, pathetically overzealous as well as The Mrs. Olsen of High-Tech, the Mr. Whipple of the Computer World, that Dell elf, a reincarnation of Eddie Haskell and a modern-day Tom Sawyer.

Apparently, the Dell Dude character appeals to all ages from teens to seniors. According to AD Track, women like the ads more than men (30% vs. 23%.). One group of girls even sent Curtis a 20-page book of photos and clippings as a romantic overture. On the flip side, the Dell Dude ranked # 7 on the www.whotokill.com website.

Now, all went well with our Dell corporate mascot until that fateful night in the winter of 2003 when the wise-cracking Steven the Dell Dude guy (a.k.a. Benjamin Curtis) who once said "I'm getting typecast a lot, but...I'm not Steven.") was arrested on February 9th, at 11:30 p.m. Sunday on Manhattans' Lower East Side at Ludlow and Rivington and charged with a misdemeanor charge for possession of marijuana, according to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

Before the arrest, Curtis had been invited to a Scottish-themed party. Leaving the entertainment, Curtis went strolling down the the street and allegedly hooked up with a drug dealer named Omar Mendez, 19, of Corona and purchased a small baggie of marijuana (while still dressed in his tuxedo top and kilt). Ultimately, the criminal court Judge Ellen Coin stated she would drop the charges and told Curtis his record would be expunged if he was on good behavior for a year.

The arrest of such a high profile corporate icon spawned such mocking catchphrases as "Dude, you're busted; Dude, you're getting arrested; Dude you're going to jail; Dude you're getting a bong; Dude you're getting deloused; Dude you got a Cell; Dude you're getting a rap sheet; and Dude, don't drop the soap.

Reprieved from imprisonment after one night in jail, Steven the Dell Dude's new slogan well might be "Dude, I just got out of jail." And while the executives at Dell were seriously thinking about the fallout a drug arrest would do to their corporate image, not everybody thought the drug bust was a bad deal. One chat line reported "I think that Dell would probably benefit from this, especially with the teenage crowd. I could just hear it now 'Sweet, the Dell dude smokes bud!'"

At the time, Venancio Figueroa, a spokesman for Round Rock-based Dell said no decision has been made on Curtis' future promoting the company. We are following the situation and really trying to understand what happened here.'' Soon after the reported bust, however, the website at the Dell Corporation (www.dell4me.com/dude) went off line.

It's important to note that since the fall of 2002 (October 14, 2002 Reuters reported "Is 'Dell Dude' Steven done for?"), the slightly addled Steven character had been relegated to second-banana status in Dell commercials as the company began running a series of less dude-centric ads focusing on a group of young, eager, wide-eyed company interns.

Anyway, now that actor Benjamin Curtis maybe available for other projects he might consider a starring role in the sequel to Jack Ass: the Movie. Ben Curtis is represented by Ambien Productions. His agent is Bonnie Schumofsky. The funniest thing to come out of all this media attention was the phrase "Isn't pot a Gateway Drug?"

TRIVIA NOTE: In Dell commercial #17 we learn that Steven's last name is Jackson. In 2003, Frenchie Davis, a semifinalist from Washington, D.C. for the TV series AMERICAN IDOL was eliminated from Fox's talent competition after she acknowledged she had worked for an adult web site four years earlier.


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