Ben Curtis, the actor made famous by his role in Dell commercials early last decade, says he’s got the solution to the problems that led Michael Dell to seek a leveraged buyout: Resurrect the “Dell Dude.”
Dell was an unstoppable force in the early 2000s when Curtis was the PC maker’s television pitchman. Steven the Dell Dude, as he was known, would show up unannounced during shopping excursions and graduation ceremonies to utter the catchphrase, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell.” It was both memorable and effective. Lots of dudes and dudettes got Dells.
Now, the company is at a crossroads. Dell has dropped to third in global PC sales after holding the top spot at the height of its marketing blitz in 2002, according to research firm IDC. Bloomberg broke the news last week that Dell is in talks with private-equity firms to take itself private. Silver Lake Management and partners are close to lining up about $15 billion for the deal, my colleagues reported. Microsoft is discussing providing part of the funding, people with knowledge of the matter said.
“I think they’re making a huge mistake and simply need to bring back the Dell Dude!” Curtis wrote to me in an e-mail. “That’s it. That’s all they need to do. If they brought me back, their sales, stock and media presence would skyrocket. That is by FAR the smartest move they could make.”
Curtis was 19 when he won the Dell Dude role in 2000. He lost his job in 2003 after he was arrested in New York while trying to buy a bag of marijuana. He also happened to be wearing a kilt at the time. Since then, Curtis has done some voice acting, including for the game “Bully,” and has appeared in NBC’s “Law & Order,” among other projects.
While Curtis still clearly has some emotional ties to Dell, as Felix Gillette’s “Branded for Life” feature in Bloomberg Businessweek illustrates, the actor is convinced that he’s not the only one who believes in his marketing power.
“America agrees,” Curtis wrote in the e-mail. “My fans are the ones that say and know this. I’m just the messenger.”