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The actor behind a successful brand character enters a state of existential limbo
September 28, 2012 5:58 AM   Subscribe

Branded For Life: what it's like to be the face of a brand. (Interesting fact: Andrew Olcott - probably better known as "Smiling Bob," the face of Enzyte - also works as a visual artist.)
posted by alex.dudley (61 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
the rest of his life, he will be saddled with the character and treated in public, at conventions, on the street, in the grocery store, like a windup toy. Pull string, say tag line.

Are we having fun yet???
posted by nathancaswell at 6:05 AM on September 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


After reading this I couldn't help wondering what effect the Gold Blend ads had on Anthony Head's career.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:16 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised the article didn't talk about the Get a Mac campaign, which managed to create brand identies for two competing companies.
posted by TedW at 6:20 AM on September 28, 2012


In February 2003, Curtis was arrested while trying to buy a bag of marijuana on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He was wearing a kilt at the time.

Perhaps Dell could forgive the pot. Perhaps. But the kilt? Never.
posted by cereselle at 6:22 AM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I immediately scrolled down to make sure Joe Isuzu made the cut.
posted by SharkParty at 6:23 AM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bloomberg buries it in this feelgood story about Smiling Bob, but the tale of Enzyte is like internet spam come to life.
posted by chavenet at 6:23 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Are we having fun yet?" was the very first thing that came to mind when I read this article. I'm actually sort of surprised it didn't get mentioned. I guess Party Down wasn't mainstream enough to be necessary.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:25 AM on September 28, 2012


I wonder if any of these actors sensed that somewhere out in the world, I was sittiing in my apartment at about 2AM, wishing death upon them and their character(s). Not everyone character obviously, but Smiling Bob certainly was high up on that list for me.

Also, I still say to myself "I always wondered where my mandibula was"...damn you Encyclopedia Kid!
posted by stifford at 6:26 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


TedW: "the Get a Mac campaign..."

I think the major difference there is that for both the US and UK versions of the Get A Mac campaign, one or both of the actors were already well known (certainly the case in the UK with Mitchell and Webb). They weren't so much blank slates upon which the entirety of a brand could be scribed.
posted by alex.dudley at 6:29 AM on September 28, 2012


I'm kind of hoping that a distinctive costume can save an actor from this fate, because the Ocean Spray guys are actually quite lovely people. And I'm pretty sure if they turned up somewhere without the caps and hip waders they'd "blend."

(And the younger guy is actually quite clever and pretty hot. Met 'em when Ocean Spray featured our family's bog in its annual bog-in-Rockefeller-Center thingy.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on September 28, 2012


I'm kind of hoping that a distinctive costume can save an actor from this fate, because the Ocean Spray guys are actually quite lovely people.

They always vaguely remind me of the Bartles and Jaymes "thank you for your support" guys. (Despite the age difference of the quiet one.)
posted by The Deej at 6:40 AM on September 28, 2012


I think the major difference there is that for both the US and UK versions of the Get A Mac campaign, one or both of the actors were already well known (certainly the case in the UK with Mitchell and Webb). They weren't so much blank slates upon which the entirety of a brand could be scribed.

No, neither Hodgman nor Justin Long was an established actor before these ads. They did the harder, weirder thing--translating ad spokesman success into a further career.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:41 AM on September 28, 2012


Where's the beef?
posted by orme at 6:41 AM on September 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Branded for Life
By Felix Gillette
Ha.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:42 AM on September 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I paid the debt I owed 'em/But they're still not satisfied/Now I'm a branded man out in the cold...
posted by Rangeboy at 6:43 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hodgman wasn't already established through The Daily Show?
posted by alex.dudley at 6:43 AM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, I still say to myself "I always wondered where my mandibula was"...damn you Encyclopedia Kid !

That was Donovan Freberg, the son of the legendary Stan Freberg.
posted by inturnaround at 6:44 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man those Old Spice guys are screwed.
posted by Mooseli at 6:45 AM on September 28, 2012


Oh man those Old Spice guys are screwed.

Dunno about that. Terry Crews seems to be doing pretty well outside of the commercials. His AMA on reddit was great, too.
posted by jquinby at 6:49 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the major difference there is that for both the US and UK versions of the Get A Mac campaign, one or both of the actors were already well known (certainly the case in the UK with Mitchell and Webb).

Mitchell and Webb did "Get a Mac" in the UK?! That's a million times more perfect for both companies than Hodgman and Long (and it sounds better too).

/scurries off to apple.co.uk to binge on ads
posted by zombieflanders at 6:50 AM on September 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


No, neither Hodgman nor Justin Long was an established actor before these ads. They did the harder, weirder thing--translating ad spokesman success into a further career.

I definitely knew Justin Long from Galaxy Quest and a few other things before he started doing those ads.
posted by SharkParty at 6:50 AM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hodgman wasn't already established through The Daily Show?

He was on the Daily Show to promote his book before the ads, and he got the ads based on that appearance and other minor appearances, but he wasn't established as a contributor until just after the ads began to run. Hard to imagine that there was a Daily Show before John Hodgman or indeed that culture had any significance of any kind before he came on the scene.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:52 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I definitely knew Justin Long from Galaxy Quest and a few other things before he started doing those ads.

Fair enough but does anyone really know Justin Long? Really? The man is a mystery.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:53 AM on September 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Hard to imagine... that culture had any significance of any kind before [Hodgman] came on the scene"


(IMAGE OF FRY SQUINTING.)
posted by alex.dudley at 6:54 AM on September 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I hear there's an opening for the Trolololololololo guy.
posted by jabah at 6:56 AM on September 28, 2012


No, neither Hodgman nor Justin Long was an established actor before these ads. They did the harder, weirder thing--translating ad spokesman success into a further career.

I'm not so sure that's true in the case of Justin Long. He may not have had a huge career before the "Get a Mac" campaign started in 2006, but he had already appeared in a number of films and TV shows by then, including a sizable role in Waiting..., which did $18.6MM boxoffice. When you figure the half-dozen or so films he appeared in that were released in 2006 -- all of which would have been filmed before the debut of the "Get a Mac" campaign, and some of which were high budget films -- I think it's safe to say that he was already well on his way up the ladder. The "Get a Mac" campaign may have helped him ascend it a good bit faster, but it's not like he was an unknown struggling-to-get-noticed-and-pay-the-rent actor and the "Get a Mac" campaign was his ticket into the industry.
posted by slkinsey at 6:59 AM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


My dad met the man from the Safestyle ads (this was years before I got involved with advertising, so I'm allowed to talk about it) via work. He was, apparently, a dick.

UK Comedy fans: Ollie from The Thick Of It does Direct Line ads these days, and Rob Brydon, Stephen Mangan and Robert Webb do more voice-overs than I can remember. And you probably didn't get these in the US, but Marcia Cross did an ad for potatoes. I just started watching Desperate Housewives and it's very confusing to see Potato Lady, L'Oreal Lady and Lois Lane Lady act out domestic dramas. I like to believe it's about a parallel universe retirement community for product shills.
posted by mippy at 7:01 AM on September 28, 2012


I actually preferred Smiling Bob and the innuendo-laden ads to the soft-focus, walk on the beach stuff they used for Viagra and Cialis.

That Dell guy...that was pretty sad. "Tell them to call me!" Oh dude.
posted by emjaybee at 7:22 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


zombieflanders, I fear you will be disappointed.
posted by phl at 7:23 AM on September 28, 2012


"I always wondered where my mandibula was"...

Have you looked between the sofa cushions?
 
posted by Herodios at 7:25 AM on September 28, 2012


He was on the Daily Show to promote his book before the ads, and he got the ads based on that appearance and other minor appearances, but he wasn't established as a contributor until just after the ads began to run. Hard to imagine that there was a Daily Show before John Hodgman or indeed that culture had any significance of any kind before he came on the scene.

When I read this, somehow the latter sentence came out in Hodgman's voice in my head. Well played, Potomac Avenue, well played.

Anyway, I knew who Hodgman was before the ads and indeed knew him before his first appearance on The Daily Show, promoting his book (although that was likely the first time I connected a face to the name): I had picked up Areas of My Expertise because I already knew him as the guy behind the brilliant Ask a Former Professional Literary Agent. I accept that I may be an outlier here; just last night the family was finishing up watching season 3 of Community and when Hodgman appeared in a guest spot, the 16-year-old declared, "Hey, it's PC!!"
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:26 AM on September 28, 2012


Where's the beef?
posted by orme


Clara Peller was unavailable for comment.
posted by The Deej at 7:27 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


That Dell guy...that was pretty sad. "Tell them to call me!" Oh dude.

The thrill is gone. I remember when metafilter couldn't wait to get his pants off.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:42 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I definitely knew Justin Long from Galaxy Quest

Holy shit. We just rewatched Galaxy Quest last week and I had no idea that was the same actor.

Microsoft should totally hire him to do a remake of the Mac vs PC ads in character as the stuttery nerd uberfan from Galaxy Quest. That would sell a lot of PCs.
posted by ook at 7:45 AM on September 28, 2012


I don't remember if it predates the Old Spice commercials or not, but I first fell for Terry Crews as the dad on "Everybody Hates Chris". Also, before he became an actor, he played for the NFL.

also from the article:

He believes that Smiling Bob will rise again someday.

:rollseyes:
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:54 AM on September 28, 2012


Justin Long was a major character on the TV show Ed (Tom Cavanaugh, Julie Bowen, John Slattery) for its entire run, I believe.

That was a great little show.
posted by Thistledown at 8:04 AM on September 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I remember Stephanie Courtney's small role as one of the call center ladies on Mad Men and wondering where I'd heard that voice before. I also sought out her stand-up, and it's pretty solid, if not totally ground-breaking.
posted by xingcat at 8:06 AM on September 28, 2012


The woman in the original Levitra ad. Jebus, what an attractive woman. I had her on my list of 5 celebrities that my wife would let me sleep with.

[tangent warning] In the Ber household we have noticed with some amusement that in all Cialis ads, the men are all at least 15 years older than their wives but barely 50. Is there some demographic here that I'm just not aware of?
posted by Ber at 8:06 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I actually preferred Smiling Bob and the innuendo-laden ads to the soft-focus, walk on the beach stuff they used for Viagra and Cialis.

I do see your point and partly agree. Although, when you think about it, thought, Viagra and Cialis actually DO something for their users. Enzyte is a dangerous scam and the company has been ripping off customers with fraudulent charges.

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.

DUH. I wonder if this guy (>>) had the same thought process: "HIV-related excess belly fat? Why that's no worse than a toothpaste ad..."

Acting is a tough business, so I cut actors slack, but there's this willingness to sell out for any reason that seems so pervasive. I guess we don't see or talk about the actors who turn this shit down...

I immediately scrolled down to make sure Joe Isuzu made the cut.

David Leisure was the Krishna in Airplane, and on Empty Nest for several seasons. Definitely a brand face, but not a one-hit wonder.

I'm surprised at no mention of Fed Ex and John Moschitta. Never heard of the Jack in the Box guy.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:17 AM on September 28, 2012


In the Ber household we have noticed with some amusement that in all Cialis ads, the men are all at least 15 years older than their wives but barely 50. Is there some demographic here that I'm just not aware of?

I think it's more a matter of "when it comes to actors, men can get away with looking their actual age but women are pressured to look younger."

As for the Cialis ads, I just want to know why they always show people in outside bathtubs side-by-side.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ber, ads like those Cialis ones aren't necessarily targeted at the demographic of the actors in the ads themselves. The guys in those ads are what the targeted demographic wants to look like or what the agency things they want to look like. "Take Cialis and you'll be the rugged square jawed guy with only a touch of gray who spends all day doing manly things like rebuilding a vintage Camaro and all night having sex with your hot trophy wife."
posted by octothorpe at 8:20 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


This advert for Guinness was totally ubiquitous in the UK during part of the 90s, so much so that the star ended up completely typecast
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:21 AM on September 28, 2012


In the Ber household we have noticed with some amusement that in all Cialis ads, the men are all at least 15 years older than their wives but barely 50. Is there some demographic here that I'm just not aware of?

Likely some age equivalent of Hollywood Homely. The advertisers need to appeal to older men by appealing to their idealized image of themselves looking twenty years younger than they actually are, so you get some trim guy with grey hair looking youthful and active, AND reinforce the message that "our product will let you bang hot young women."

Or on preview, what EmpressCallipygos and octothorpe said.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:26 AM on September 28, 2012


The woman in the original Levitra ad. Jebus, what an attractive woman. I had her on my list of 5 celebrities that my wife would let me sleep with.

No fair without linking. This one? (Also, that's not really a celebrity. I'm not sure the game works when it's people you might actually have sex with one day...)

What's funny about that old Levitra ad is that it presumes a stigma around erection drugs. lol. Pharma had no reason to worry about that.

Justin Long was a major character on the TV show Ed

Seriously. I didn't watch, but Ed was pretty big. He was at least a B-list actor before the Mac ads. He was Britney Spear's boyfriend in Crossroads and Vince Vaughn's protege in Dodgeball well before "I'm a Mac." Plus Jeepers Creepers.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:30 AM on September 28, 2012


[tangent warning] In the Ber household we have noticed with some amusement that in all Cialis ads, the men are all at least 15 years older than their wives but barely 50. Is there some demographic here that I'm just not aware of?

Erectile Dysfunction Medications: Ruining the Lives of Trophy Wives Since the Early 90s.
posted by availablelight at 8:33 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel sort of bad for the Enzyte guy. It's not enough to be branded as the face of impotence, he's the face of a faith based herbal product whose executives were convicted for a generous variety of fraudulent activities. I think I'd want to choose who I'm the brand for a little more carefully.

I always admired Bob Dole for doing the Viagra ads.
posted by Nelson at 8:50 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


What EmpressCallipygos asked a thousand times! I have puzzled over the side-by-side bathtubs for literally years. I've approached it from all metaphorical angles and cannot figure out what it's supposed to mean. If someone knows please enlighten us!
posted by Partario at 8:50 AM on September 28, 2012


I'd rather be the face of something like Enzyte than any sort of feminine hygiene products or meds to treat an STD.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:53 AM on September 28, 2012


Dunno about that. Terry Crews seems to be doing pretty well outside of the commercials.

But it would be dangerous to suggest that he wasn't. Most actors don't rip people's arms off when they're disappointed in random comments on the intarwebs... Terry Crewses have been known to do that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:57 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can't advertise prescription-only medicine in the UK, so jobbing actors' possibility of being the face of 'embarrassing' products is fairly limited. I suppose with the NHS anyway there's no choice for the 'consumer' about whether they get the brand name or the generic (I've been given both for my prescription, which only has the drug name on, depending on which pharmacy I go to) so they;d be limited to advertising to the trade.

"What's funny about that old Levitra ad is that it presumes a stigma around erection drugs. lol. Pharma had no reason to worry about that."

My mum warned me, on the way to a festival, that 'if someone offers you a blue pill, DO NOT take it, because it might be Viagra, and as you're a woman it won't know where to go.'
posted by mippy at 9:04 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


What Mario isn't telling you...
posted by Fizz at 9:33 AM on September 28, 2012


I have puzzled over the side-by-side bathtubs for literally years. I've approached it from all metaphorical angles and cannot figure out what it's supposed to mean.

It suggests "being naked together" without actually showing naked people together.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:36 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid, walking down Fifth Avenue with my Dad, we spotted a short guy in an anachronistic bellboy uniform and my Dad cried "hey, that's Johnny! Call for Philip Morris!" Even I knew about Johnny Roventini, who was then nearing retirement after 40 years of representing the brand. He was ultimately more famous than most of the radio stars on whose shows his ads aired.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:43 AM on September 28, 2012


My mum warned me, on the way to a festival, that 'if someone offers you a blue pill, DO NOT take it, because it might be Viagra, and as you're a woman it won't know where to go.'

Tangential, but I used to date a woman who was a fan of recreational pharmaceutical experiences, and when she took a little blue diamond-shaped pill, it knew where to go.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:59 AM on September 28, 2012


I'd rather be the face of something like Enzyte than any sort of feminine hygiene products or meds to treat an STD.

There's this scene from Friends where Joey brags about the modeling job he just scored with the health department.
posted by availablelight at 10:13 AM on September 28, 2012


Yay! The Tiddy Bear® ladies! Who doesn't want to be motorboated by a stuffed animal while one is driving?

Also, it's funny because it sounds like "titty."

Plus, it's much cuter than a Kush®.
posted by sonascope at 10:42 AM on September 28, 2012


Also, it's funny because it sounds like "titty."

Aw, they caught on - it's called the Snugglestrap now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:46 AM on September 28, 2012


[M]uch of his public silence over the years, Marcarelli explained, had largely been self-imposed in deference to the brand character he played and the sizable income that came with it. Once, he had even decided not to file a police report about teenagers yelling homophobic slurs outside his home out of concern about how it would be perceived publicly if news got out that the actor who played the [Verizon] Test Man was, in fact, gay.

This is sad, and it's a shame he's so reluctant to talk about his experiences, not least because Hear Me Now is just right there as a memoir title.

Also, holy crap he's 42 and crazy hot AND he wrote a movie that just coincidentally ended up on the top of my suggested Netflix queue.
posted by psoas at 12:58 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of Thomas Wilson, aka Biff from Back to the Future, and his song, "Stop Asking Me the Question".
posted by funkiwan at 2:21 PM on September 28, 2012


"He believes that Smiling Bob will rise again someday."

smirk
posted by rmless at 3:42 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just want to know why they always show people in outside bathtubs side-by-side.

Why, how do you get in the mood? I let Mrs. Fnarf know "it's time" with a judicious cluster of fart bubbles, just as the lonely hawk swoops in front of the setting sun over Cialis Ridge. Works every time.

She really hates toting all those buckets of hot water, though.
posted by Fnarf at 4:19 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


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