Steven, aka the Dell Guy, unaccountably exploded last December, when suddenly the affable pitchman was everywhere, getting major pop culture face time in the likes of The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and on 20/20 and CNN. Websites are devoted to him. He's frequently stopped on the street and given the verbal thumbs up: "Dude, you're getting a Dell! " The kid's a walking, talking branding implement. So who's responsible for this creative coup? Most would likely credit DDB/Chicago, Dell's shop since April 2001, but it was actually two CDs from Lowe Lintas/New York, Carol Fiorino and Jeffrey Asch, who developed the character in 2000, and cast the unknown actor, 21-year-old Tennesseean Tim Curtis. "We cast the spot during the SAG strike," Fiorino recalls, "so we got lots of kids from Long Island who had never acted, and lots of agents' neighbors." The director, Bennet Miller, recognized Curtis' potential immediately, but it took some work before the client was convinced. "They thought he was a little too good-looking," says Asch. "We had to beg them to trust us. " The team produced three spots - home videos of Steven sweet-talking parents into buying Dells - which precipitated a sales boost in January, 2001. Nevertheless, Lowe lost the account three months later in a creative shootout with DDB, despite the fact that DDB CDs John Siebert and Paul Tilley were instructed by the client to continue the campaign. It's not all that unusual for a client to change agencies, taking a creative concept along for the ride - the Energizer bunny hopped from DDB to Chiat/Day, for example. But all the post facto publicity hurts, says Asch. "We wish it were us having all the fun and glory. When we see the quotes from DDB creatives, we feel left out. If we're not mentioned, it's implied that they originated it." Then again, maybe it all worked out for the best. "We certainly wouldn't have written a line as corny as 'Dude, you're getting a Dell,' " he says indignantly.