Not so long ago… a big-time commercial failure in film meant one thing for an actor: TV purgatory. A lot has changed since then, with many well-known thespians gladly taking roles on the ol’ boob tube, instead of feature-length movies, not only for the steady paycheck and massive residuals, but also for character work that a two-hour movie just can’t match anymore.
Maybe the fact that we’re living through the golden age of television is part of the reason we’re also seeing a bevy of A-list celebrities popping up between TV shows, in commercials on America television.
It used to be that actors and actresses peddled their wares covertly for fat paydays, but those ads were exclusive to foreign companies or were only shown overseas. Nowadays, thanks to the globalization of all things media (ie YouTube), there is nowhere to hide. So why bother? Celebs are now peddling goods and services on their home turf.
After Sharknado hit, there was no jumping the shark anymore; in much the same way commercials are suddenly a viable gig, one that agents and managers are likely overjoyed with, as they take very little of their client’s time and offer up big bucks. Cha-ching!
So who’s pitching products right now? Well, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Don Cheadle are drinking the kool-aid for Bud Light’s new #upforwhatever campaign that launched during the Super Bowl, Alec Baldwin and Samuel L. Jackson have been spotted shamelessly hawking credit cards for some time, Scarlett Johannson is getting into the action sipping on SodaStream and many more screen luminaries — including Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts and Robert DeNiro — have jumped in the warm American commercial pool.
Is this tied into the U.S. society’s current fascination with YouTube and short, funny clips that we post daily on Facebook and share with other social media sites? Most definitely. Is it a way to for a brand to look hip and cool? You betcha. The term sellout no longer applies I’m afraid…not if everyone’s doing it. So we might as well start reviewing them.
Scarlett Johansson (SodaStream)
While initially set to pop off during this year’s Big Game, Scarlett Johansson’s SodaStream ad was apparently banned by Fox. Not for nudity mind you (Hey, if she wouldn’t go commando for Woody Allen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “Don Jon” she’s not stripping for soda pop), but because Johansson rips on Coke and Pepsi…two companies that certainly make it rain for many, many multi-billion dollar conglomerates. Talk about hypocrisy, remember back in the day when seemingly every Coke and Pepsi commercial featured both products as they attempted to defame the other? Still, despite the fact that SodaStream is way too much work for a carbonated beverage, Johansson does make it seem relatively easy…and a bit sleazy. Pop. Pop. Fizz. Fizz.
Rating: 3 Whistles
Edward Norton (Verizon)
Having a phone…can be an adventure in itself. Although this Verizon spot clocks in at just 1:30, it’s probably Norton’s most compelling narrative thriller since John Dahl’s “Rounders.” Maybe less…really is more. Seriously, I was left wanted more. Much more. Luckily, there is an entire series of extended scenes that link to this…adding character development, red herrings, and plot devices that would make Hitchcock proud. Are we making mini-movies here or commercials? Is there a difference anymore? This certainly blurs the lines. If this is the future of commercials, I’m in.
Rating: 4 Whistles
Brad Pitt (Chanel No. 5)
Remember how glorious Brad Pitt’s golden, flowing locks looked in “Seven Years in Tibet?” This is a reminder that he is a golden god, and we are mere mortals. But hey, at least we can smell like him. Go ahead, smell my Pitt.
Rating: 2.5 Whistles
NOMINEE FOR INTERNATIONAL COMMERCIAL HALL OF FAME
Many will remember Bill Murray in “Lost In Translation” playing an actor who pitches Suntory Whisky in a Japanese advertisement.
But Sean Connery — 007 himself — actually did one for the very same alcohol company.
And this very real 1990s ad, while dated, is just as smooth as the product itself.
Connery’s Dewar’s ad, which aired in 2004, is just as wonderful.
Coming soon… Star Wares: NewsWhistle’s Review Of Celebrity Ads In America (Volume 2)
Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.