Five Commercial Actors You Should Know

Meet the actors behind the brands

For marketers, a good actor can be the difference between lackluster and through-the-roof numbers. Sharply drawn characters help graft meaning onto products by giving them a sense of back story and continuity, a familiarity that goes a long way toward cementing a connection. It’s similar to the way sitcom characters, in behaving in expected ways, create long-lasting relationships with viewers who revel in the comfort of repetition.

Famous brand personalities, of course, stretch way back. Some of our old favorites are Cracker Jack’s Jack Gilford, Palmolive’s Jan Milner and Maytag’s Gordon Jump. Here are five contemporary actors whose personas give big boosts to the brands they embody.

Jonathan Goldsmith

Character: The Most Interesting Man in the World

Client: Dos Equis (Heineken)

Agency: Euro RSCG

Out of the hundreds of actors who auditioned in cities countrywide to make a case for why they should play The Most Interesting Man in the World, only one took off a shoe and sock to audition barefoot. Why? He wanted to leave a lasting impression.

That actor was 73-year-old Jonathan Goldsmith, who, in casting, had mentioned he lived on a boat in Beverly Hills (an impossible feat).

In a Hollywood career spanning decades, Goldsmith typically played the heavy in dozens of TV shows and movies. He was hung, shot, electrocuted and otherwise roughed up and/or brought to justice by the likes of John Wayne, Marshall Matt Dillon and MacGyver. While Goldsmith took a break from acting during the early ’90s to try his hand at the waterless car wash industry, he started auditioning for roles again around a decade or so later.

Goldsmith’s age both helped and hindered his chances with Dos Equis. “We knew this needed to be a man who could give you advice on life without you wanting to punch him in the face,” says Brandon Henderson, who had worked on the campaign while at Euro (and is now at Wieden + Kennedy). “The younger the person we looked at, the more irritating it became when he tried to impart his wisdom.”

But as Henderson puts it, Goldsmith was also “about a half-century” outside of Dos Equis’ age demographic.

Ultimately, though, Goldsmith’s ability during early casting sessions to improvise “long stories about shipwrecks and homing pigeons and sneaking into dinners with foreign ambassadors," per Henderson, got him the job. Since then, Goldsmith has helped Dos Equis achieve double-digit sales growth every year since the campaign launched in 2006.

Carly Foulkes

Character: The T-Mobile Girl

Client: T-Mobile

Agency: Publicis Seattle

Until Carly Foulkes came along, commercials that featured people hawking and/or pretending to be high-tech devices was pretty much a guy domain. (Think Justin Long and John Hodgman for Apple.) But as it turns out, the T-Mobile myTouch girl isn’t all that girly, at least in real life. Foulkes’ favorite pastimes include snowboarding, skateboarding, collecting comic books and playing her PlayStation 3. Put her in a magenta party dress, however, and she exudes a dewy friendliness that takes the fear of technology out of technology.

The 23-year-old Canadian, who has been modeling since she was a teenager, has done print work for Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie & Fitch. The T-Mobile gig is her biggest to date. At her audition, Foulkes found herself operating at a distinct disadvantage due to her country of origin. Canadians pronounce “mobile” so that it rhymes with smile.

“I botched all my lines and kept saying the name of the phone wrong,” she later told Paper magazine. “It was definitely an ‘I need a glass of wine after this’ experience.”

Apparently, botching a few lines didn’t keep Publicis from believing they’d found the perfect spokesperson. The campaign it was planning not only appropriated Apple’s “I’m a Mac” ads, but it also added insult to larceny by knocking the iPhone’s sluggish performance. In the wrong hands, a copycat attack ad could have backfired horribly, but Foulkes, looking sun dappled and spring fresh, provides the light touch needed.