Celebrities sell cars, coffee, kibble…even the kitchen sink

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Anyone else noticed the recent upswing in celebrity “voice overs” or narration or whatever you want to call it? So far I’ve heard:

  • Kevin Spacey for Honda
  • John Corbett (Aidan on Sex and the City) for AppleBee’s (Way less annoying than Wanda Sykes, thank you!)
  • David Duchovny for Purina (Which no one believed for a long time…probably ‘cuz most non X-philes don’t know who he is.)
  • Patrick Dempsey for StateFarm (Swoon, I’m sold, but he is wasted behind the camera…put him on screen!)
  • Stanley Tucci for ATT
  • Gene Hackman for Lowe’s
  • John Goodman for Dunkin Donuts (The worst ads I have ever seen. I love Hill Holiday but they need to start over. There’s no saving this campaign.)

So what’s the deal with all these talented actors going behind the camera to do voice work? I’ve always thought of that as something you start with and work your way out of, not back to. These may not all be huge stars or timeless actors, but they’re all fairly recognizable names. Kevin Spacey and Gene Hackman each have two Oscar wins, Goodman’s got a Globe and an Emmy, Tucci’s got a Tony nod…the list goes on.

My first thought was “writers’ strike,” but some of the campaigns started running before the strike began. Are they just that hard up? I doubt Gene Hackman needs to do commercials at this point in his career; he could surely find a role he likes, and if not, he’s probably not strapped for cash.

For the celeb, a commercial is easy money for easy work, and they can command more than a voice actor. They also get the chance to lend their vocal chords to a product they love or a cause they support. It’s something different for them, and I’m guessing an ego boost to be asked to be “the voice” of something.

As for the companies hiring stars for their famous phrasing? First, they can afford a bigger star for voice work than they could as an on-screen spokesperson. But the real power in using a famous voice is the “inside joke” it sets up with viewers. If you can correctly identify your favorite celebrity in a commercial, you establish a bond with that product.

I would never give State Farm a second thought if it weren’t for Patrick Dempsey. But the instant I heard his voice, they became the “cooler” (at least in my head) insurance company. State Farm also made me cooler, because I was in on the joke. Where some “less cool” viewers just heard a commercial, I heard a brand being built.

Heard any other celebrity commercials? Let me know who, or better yet, leave a link so I can check it out. Also love to hear more theories on why they do this, or the effect it has on you.

UPDATE: Michael Clarke Duncan for Quizno’s

1 Comment

  • Nice writing style. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

    Comment by Chris Moran — April 29, 2008 @ 10:42 am

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