Business Week published a great article today called “Branded For Life.” It profiles five commercial actors from the past thirty years, including the Verzion “Can you hear me now” guy, the Dell dude, and Smiling Bob from the male enhancement drug Enzyte.
The article interviews the actors, and chronicles the commercial actor cycle: from first booking the commerical, to the hefty paychecks and morality clauses they sign, and ultimately receiving a letter in their mail informing them that their services will no longer be needed. “It’s like a great party, and then the party ends,” said Dan Gilvezan, who played Jack in the Box‘s David to McDonald’s Goliath.
I had my own brief flirt with commercial fame from being the CarSense guy. Personally I was anonymous, but on the streets of Philly I was recognized as “Sam” and was treated like a minor celebrity at my oral surgeon’s office. Last week, I reached out to CarSense because I’m purchasing a car. I emailed them to see if my CarSense fame could get me a discount. A polite woman emailed me back explaining that they’re a “no haggle dealer.” And so it goes.
My star as a commercial actor for CarSense, Dust Off, and Saladworks have faded, but it never shined so bright that they eclipsed me being cast in another commercial because my face was too associated with a specific product. I’m reminded of the opening scene of Hamlet 2 with Steve Coogan. The film opens with a montage that shows seven or so commercials that Dana Marschz, Coogan’s character, was in. The voiceover narrates each one and at the end, when the final commercial fades the voiceover says, “To act is to live a dream.” I love the dream, along with the glitz and fame, but I recognize the reality of a business that can be illusory and disposable. At the end of the day, I’m still just Michael… but a free car to ride in would still be awesome.