Wednesday, February 1, 2012


"Stupid commercials!!"

How many times have we thought that?
Lots of times!
But have you ever wondered what happens in the behind-the-scenes of a commercial?
Here's a secret: it's not easy for an actor to do commercials!
When you think that they're just playing silly, well, keep in mind there's method in that too. And when you think, "Pff, I can do it!", well, maybe yes, but keep in mind it's not as easy as it looks and sounds.

If you're an actor, here are a few tips you can apply when auditioning for (or performing in) commercials.

1) When you are told the product that you're supposed to advertise, try asking yourself, "Why do I care about this product?"
There's no such answer as "I don't care". You must care. How can you convince somebody if you're not convinced yourself?
So, find a way to care!

2) Then comes the objective. Remember the objective? I talked about it in my post Auditions - Cold Reading.
Don't forget, it's still a role you're auditioning for; so, just as for a theater or movie role, ask yourself, "What's my objective?" To convince, to charm, to spellbind, to explain, to help...
Once you know the context (also commercials have a plot), thinking of a more specific objective will be much easier.

3) Find some ways to hook into the product.
You may ask yourself, "Why is it useful for me to help sell this product?". It is useful, indeed! Think about this: you can pay for your acting classes with the money you get for a commercial! Isn't that enough of a trigger? Or: a commercial might get you seen by some Hollywood big shot who's looking exactly for a person with your looks to play the next James Bond. Isn't that just what you need to tickle your fancy with and build up some motivation?

4) Find out what commercials you're better for, focus on them, and have your agent focus on them too.

5) Practice on commercials and ads from magazines, newspapers, or products wrapping paper.

6) Use the actual product to punctuate the most important parts of your speech.

7) And then, of course, watch as many commercials as you can!

If, instead, you're not an actor, I hope this post will help you see some of the mechanisms lying behind doing commercials.



  1. I'd never thought about that, so thank you. Maybe I'll pay more attention next time I actually watch TV on, well, a TV.

  2. Fascinating. I was seeing some links between this and 'writing.' But on that theme I think the real stars of the commercials are the copy-writers or the 'creatives'. There are commercials I actively look forward to watching, again and again. If you can, check out the Meerkats advert on youtube.


    1. Lostariel,
      Yes, but be careful. I don't want you to end up buying junk! ;)

      I concur, the first real stars are always those who write and develop the idea. The rest is "just" interpretation.
      Thanks for the link. I watched the advert. It is cute indeed.
      If you like meerkats, have you watched the documentary narrated by Richard Attemborough? I really recommend it!

  3. Lots of stars started in commercials. I've heard national ads are good money. Break a leg. :)

  4. Hi Jay,
    Mike is right. We tend to forget about the writer behind the scenes. I like witty commercials or those that use animals in it. ;) Some commercials are just plain annoying to the point I mute the TV or change the channel. As a writer, I can get inspired to craft characters out of these commercials ;)

  5. Whether we consider the writers or the actors, commercials are powerful! They get us to buy stuff, needed or not, mostly not, so you're right that it's not easy being an actor in commercials. It's 30 seconds worth of good acting to sell a product.

    By the way, Jay, do you know Felicia Shulman? She's a Montreal actress with over 30 yrs experience in theatre, film and TV.

  6. Pax,
    You heard right. All commercials ending up on national tv is tons of money, and they're an actor's highway to major movie roles!

    The commercials with animals are cute. Others are indeed annoying. Have you noticed, though, that the more annoying the ad, the more you remember it? I'm starting to think they deliberately make them stupid and annoying!

    My experience comes only from training and auditioning, but I never really did a commercial. I can tell you, though, nothing is left to chance, and the acting too has to be very precise and perfectly calibrated with the type of product!
    Felicia Shulman, I don't think I heard of her, but let me go google her name.
    Thanks for the tip and for stopping by, Laura!

  7. Interesting post Jay! Most commercial annoy me although I do find a few entertaining. I have never been one to think being an actor in a commercial was easy but it is enlightening to hear about it from your perspective. I remember hearing about the guy in those "old spice" commercials who landed on Oprah, and got some other projects from just that so as you said, you never know who will discover you from a commercial!
    Thanks for sharing!


  8. Cathy,
    No matter how skilled actors can be in commercials; when I'm interrupted during my favorite movie scene, I also do find that most disturbing!
    However, commercials are another way to be seen and noticed. Like the saying goes, what goes around comes around ;)
    Thanks for your comment, Cathy!

  9. HA! To be honest, no Idea what I posted. It happens. Tricky little reject button.

    My comment was along the lines of agreeing with you. And treating any commercial as a full fledged film or short. Much like how every audition I go into is treated like a full on performance with my own captive audience. I think it's the only way to treat an audition. For anything. Commercial auditions are my own personal movie. And commercials I've shot are with fully developed characters and relationships.

    Part of it is to get through the ridiculousness of peddling something you don't care about. But for that day of shooting you better believe I would risk life and limb to get whatever product is in my hand.

  10. Commercials have never been my thing, but reading this will definitely have me more alert the next time I watch them. Which is difficult because I don't own a television-- but we will be watching the Superbowl. Which really is the perfect time to study commercials!

  11. New follower here :D I found you over on the .W.I.P. It BBQ (Yeah, I'm a little late) Looks like a fun blog--I'll be stoked for your posts ;)

  12. Patrick,
    Thanks for rewriting your comment.
    Yes, acting in commercials is still performing and, this time, the home-viewers are the off-camera actors!

    Funny, I don't own a television myself. When I want to see commercials, I have to go find them on you tube!
    Enjoy the Superbowl!

    Thanks for joining!
    I'm glad you like what I write!
    And no, you aren't late!
    WELCOME to my blog!
    Make yourself at home. Sit by the fireplace if you want to warm up a bit. I'll take your coat. Care for a cup of Earl Gray and home-baked buiscuits? :)

  13. Oh I never ever ever think it's easy doing a commercial! Acting and pulling it off convincingly is not for the faint hearted so I am in AWE at your actors called do to such things! And, hey, if the money's good - then go for it!

    Take care

  14. Kitty,
    In a movie we have to sell ourselves, in a commercial we have to sell ourselves and the product; twice as difficult!!! ;)
    Take care too, and again congrats, auntie!

  15. I bet that would help a lot with public speaking.

  16. like everything else, the job of acting in commercials should be done with care, otherwise the person doesn't deserve the job :)

  17. You're so right. Acting is like any other job. The hard-working ones are always rewarded, sooner or later.
    Thanks for your comment and for joining my blog!

  18. I did a commercial once where I was on the screen for the full 30 seconds and all I had to do was smile cheekily. My cheeks hurt so much by the end of filming.. Lol.

  19. Jeff,
    On the screen for a whole 30 seconds? Well, congratulations! Did it go on national TV?
    A commercial without lines: easy breezy, wasn't it? ;)
    I hope one comes around for me too! Lol