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Branded for Life

The secret joys and sorrows of Smiling Bob, Joe Isuzu, the Dell Dude, and every other actor who’s given their face to a company
Smiling Bob (left): Andrew Olcott was the beaming face of Enzyte, a “natural male enhancement” product. Today he runs a small advertising business; The Dell Dude (right): Ben Curtis was still an NYU student when his raves about Dell computers blanketed the nation in the ’00s. Now he’s looking for work
Smiling Bob (left): Andrew Olcott was the beaming face of Enzyte, a “natural male enhancement” product. Today he runs a small advertising business; The Dell Dude (right): Ben Curtis was still an NYU student when his raves about Dell computers blanketed the nation in the ’00s. Now he’s looking for workOlcott: Photograph by Nathanael Turner for Bloomberg Businessweek; Curtis: Photograph by Jason Nocito for Bloomberg Businessweek

In January 2002, a Canadian actor named Andrew Olcott got a call from his agent. She wanted to discuss an unusual opportunity. Would he be willing, she asked, to audition for a TV commercial for a “natural male enhancement” pill?

Olcott thought it over. He was new to the commercial acting business, and though doing a spot for a penis pill was a far cry from doing Shakespeare, it didn’t seem any worse than, say, pitching deodorant. For years, he had worked primarily as a visual artist. He could use the gig. Besides, all auditions are long shots. Even if he got the job, he thought, most TV spots come and go with little fanfare. It seemed likely that nobody would ever notice.