Saturday, July 24, 2010


If you watch enough television, and pay attention to what you're watching, you'll see actors pop up in multiple commercials, for various products. This is because most advertisements these days take the form of short, semi-ironic and frequently nonsensical skits rather than the more stone-faced endorsements of decades past. Very few products have pitchmen in the old style; there are almost no modern-day Mr. Whipples (Charmin toilet paper). The Old Spice man is fascinating precisely because he's the exception. And even he is simultaneously a pitchman and a parody of a pitchman.

But some actors, it seems, don't get the opportunity to sell multiple products. The people I see pitching pharmaceuticals, especially the ones who do so while wearing white coats and standing amid rooms full of lab equipment, never show up in any other commercials.

Why is this? I think it's because if you see someone talking to you about heart medicine, and then later see them talking to you about floor cleaner, it will in some way damage the credibility of the heart medicine. But if you saw them pitching floor cleaner and then later pitching hot dogs, you wouldn't think the hot dogs were less worthwhile just because the floor-cleaner lady told you about them. Medicine is different. The Billy Banks/Vince Shlomi approach just wouldn't work.

I'm curious whether when you sign on to wear a lab coat in a commercial for this or that pill, the ad agency (or the manufacturer) makes you sign a clause that you won't appear in any other commercials for the life of the campaign. And if so, do they pay the actor(s) that much more, knowing that the gig will limit the performer's future earnings? It seems like if you were an actor, that might be a tough choice to make. Do you take that ad, knowing that you'll have a hard time getting another job that year?

If anybody knows anything about advertising, fill me in.

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