Every day, we’re inundated with commercials. Whether you’re watching them during the breaks for the latest episode of The Good Wife or you have to sit through them before watching your favorite YouTube video, you’re likely well-acquainted with the visual advertising on TV and the Internet.
While some commercials are forgettable, others have truly stood the test of time. When it comes to brands like Progressive, Orbit Gum and Dos Equis imported beer, their ads not only bring in more revenue–they’ve also been known to launch quite a few acting careers.
Today we’re talking about actors who have made a big splash in commercials made popular in recent years. These are the people who had such a great role in a commercial that everyone knew who they were, just from that ad. They became a household name. In fact, they became so popular that they became regular fixtures in the brand’s continued advertising over many years.
Read on for our list of 6 actors who got their big break with roles in popular commercials.
6. Jonathan Goldsmith as The Most Interesting Man in the World in Dos Equis Commercials
While this may not be a breakout role for veteran actor Jonathan Goldsmith, his role as The Most Interesting Man in the World could be considered his breakout performance of the millennium. While he’s been acting since the 1960s, he hasn’t had many roles in the last few decades. Then comes the Dos Equis import beer brand and their new line of commercials in 2006. In the commercials, Jonathan plays a real man’s man, world traveler and wealthy gentleman. His famous line, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis,” was so big that it started a popular Internet meme that’s still in use today. The ad campaign was a success and the import beer saw a 22% increase in sales in the US according to Maclean’s Magazine. This was during a time when other import beers were seeing a 4% decrease in sales.
While Jonathan hasn’t had any other acting projects since he starred in the Dos Equis commercials, a new generation of viewers now know his face. They can go back and watch some of his best works, including roles in Die Hard 2 and Go Tell The Spartans.
5. Vanessa Branch in Orbit Gum Commercials
Orbit Gum has proven that funny commercials can revive a brand. Most people don’t know this, but Orbit was originally introduced in 1944 by the Wrigley gum company. When they wanted to relaunch the brand in 2001, they needed a new approach. That’s when they came up with the Orbit Girl, played by Vanessa Branch. In the commercials, after a rather dirty situation, she would say, “A good clean feeling, no matter what.” Her cheery attitude and British accent were a hit with American audiences. From 2001 to 2010, she made over 20 commercials for Orbit Gum. In 2010, they replaced her with a younger actress, Farris Patton.
While Vanessa was somewhat well-known in the United Kingdom before the Orbit commercials, this was her breakthrough role to gain an audience in the US. Since the Orbit commercials, she’s played Giselle in the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels and has had parts in TV shows like Lost, Monk and Criminal Minds.
4. Paul Marcarelli as the Verizon Test Man
If you watched television at all in the early 2000s, you’ll recognize the catch phrase for the Verizon Test Man: “Can you hear me now?” Actor Paul Marcarelli started starring in Verizon commercials in 2002. His character, “Test Man,” dressed as a Verizon technician. In the commercials, he’d hold a phone to his ear, ask “Can you hear me now,” pause, and respond with a jovial, “Good.” You’d think that with such a simple premise, they wouldn’t need to make many of these commercials. Of course, when Verizon saw how popular Paul’s Test Man was, with his arresting smile and horn-rimmed glasses, they decided to order more commercials. He ended up doing the advertisements, with those same lines, from 2002 to 2011.
Despite his success as a commercial actor, Paul has since taken roles behind the scenes. He’s written and produced several films and documentaries since his tenure as the Verizon Test Man ended. He wrote, produced and had a small acting part in the 2011 independent film The Green.
3. Vince Offer in ShamWow and Slap Chop Commercials
Infomercial-style commercials aren’t anything new. We’ve been watching these kinds of commercials for decades, but Vince Offer of the ShamWow and Slap Chop commercials offered viewers something different: he was funny. Sure, he showed people how the ShamWow could soak up soda from a carpet, but he also peppered in catchy lines at rapid-fire pace. Vince used his experience both as a comedian and flea market product-peddler to great success. After the commercials began airing in 2007, Slate.com said Vince had an “impressive and subtle mastery of the pitchman’s art.” After that success, Vince quickly moved on to commercials of a similar style for the kitchen gadget Slap Chop.
After his successful commercials, Vince stuck with what he knows over the years. He’s now in commercials for Schticky and InVINCEable products. He’s also continued his comedy career writing, directing, producing and acting in the film InAPPropriate Comedy. His career seems to be stable after a physical altercation with a prostitute in Florida back in 2009.
2. Isaiah Mustafa as the Old Spice Guy
Although Isaiah Mustafa was no stranger to television acting, having had small parts on a number of shows, his true big break came from the Old Spice deodorant commercials. He starred as The Man Your Man Could Smell Like, or the Old Spice Guy for short. His role in the commercials was both humorous and sexy, achieving the seemingly impossible goal of attracting both male and female fans. He started doing Old Spice commercials in 2010 and hasn’t stopped yet. The original commercial was so successful that it became the fastest growing online viral video campaign ever during the 2010 launch. It garnered 6.7 million views in just one day after it was uploaded to YouTube.
Since the Old Spice commercials, everyone knows Isaiah Mustafa’s deep voice and engaging smile. He’s had more TV and movie roles in the last few years and will likely have a lot more in the future if his current success is any indication.
1. Stephanie Courtney as Flo From the Progressive Commercials
Flo of Progressive is definitely one of the most successful commercial characters of all time. The first Progressive commercial featuring this friendly character, portrayed by actress Stephanie Courtney, came on TV in 2008. Though it’s now 6 years later, there are still new Progressive commercials featuring Flo all the time. You would think that people would be sick of her by now, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Boson Herald said Flo was “the commercial break’s new sweetheart” in 2009 and she currently has nearly 5.5 million likes on Facebook. Chris Owens, CEO of Progressive said of the actress’s portrayal of Flo in 2010, “Stephanie came to the audition and gave such an amazing performance, everyone looked at each other and said, ‘She’s our girl.'”
While Stephanie Courtney had acting roles before the Progressive commercials, her parts were small and unmemorable. Since her Progressive commercials aired, she’s had many TV appearances on shows such as United States of Tara, House M.D. and 2 Broke Girls.