In North America we have an intense love affair with our celebrities. We stand in awe of them and place them on a pedestal far above regular folk. We see them as serious artists and we could not imagine them using their talent to sell obscure products. Sure there has been the iconic relationships like Bill Cosby with Jello and Coke, but for the most part we would not expect to see our superstars selling these common products in commercials. In fact when there has been this type of advertising involving a star, it has become the object of ridicule. Anyone who can recall the 1980s remembers Ricardo Montalban selling Chrysler cars complete with Corinthian leather seats, what followed was ridicule and parody for several years. This does not mean that we are depriving our celebrities of work. There are certain products that everyone considers respectable items for our stars to push. Cosmetic companies like Cover Girl, high-end watch companies like Tag Heuer and of course athletic wear companies like Nike or Adidas are deemed acceptable. Most of these ads are done with class and professionalism that is worthy of the respect that our celebrities are given in our society. The North American film, sports and music industry has a worldwide appeal and, because of this, our celebrities can use their popularity to sell items in distant lands. The exciting aspect of this is that they are no longer constrained by the fear of public opinion. Some of these campaigns are for items that would never be sold by a top celebrity on this side of the ocean. Some of the campaigns themselves are hilarious and place our stars in strange circumstances. You can find Britney Spears selling candy and Sean Connery pushing yogurt. The fact that these stars are willing to sell these products shows us that perhaps we do glamorize our celebrities a little too much. What is wrong about being the face of a coffee or a beer advertising campaign. These stars are people like everyone else who are looking to work and have fun while doing it. Perhaps if the North American audience was not so quick to label these people sell-outs or money hungry monsters we would be allowed to see campaigns similar to those seen overseas. Until that that time enjoy the list below of products and campaigns our top celebrities have been in abroad.
10. ) Drew Barrymore: Korean Ice Cream
Drew Barrymore has been seen in a few ad campaigns in North America. Most notably for Cover Girl cosmetics, Gucci and Guess apparel. These all fall under the umbrella of acceptable merchandise our celebrities can endorse. In South Korea, however, Drew represents another well known company, that is not a fashionable label or make-up giant. Truth be told, she is selling an item that might cause issues with the ones she is more known for, as its use to excess might change your body to a point where the fashion labels no longer fit. In Korean Drew Barrymore represented Baskin Robins ice cream! For the strange association of product to actor this dessert ad comes in at number 10.
9) Ben Stiller: Japanese Blue Steel
Ben Stiller is one of the most accomplished comedians in Hollywood. He has not only acted in, but has produced and written some of the funniest films of the last 15 years. Stiller has created both iconic characters and memorable scenes on film. Although he has never really been associated with any product in North America, in Japan, it’s another story. Taking a page from his incredibly good looking character Derek Zoolander, Stiller gave the Japanese population his best Blue Steel look when he appeared in a campaign for Kirin Beer. The ad was funny and merits a place on the list.
8) Jennifer Aniston: Beer Babe
Jennifer Aniston has promoted several products in North America. She has been a spokesperson for Aveeno skin products and smart water beverages. There is a definite image of the wholesome girl next door that has followed Aniston throughout her career. She does however have a taste for a hops based beverage that many people enjoy. Heineken and Aniston teamed up for an add campaign in the Netherlands. In the ad Aniston tries to use her womanly charms to get what she wants, namely beers located on a high shelf. Her charms fail and the handsome only to be ignored by the young gentlemen and be left without a drink. For the situational humor alone this makes our list.
7) Snoop Dogg: German Crooner
When we think of Snoop Dogg we do not think of a lounge singer. The rap star has in fact endorsed a fair number of products including Norton Anti-virus software and Hot Pockets. We are aware that he has the capacity to sell his name for profit, but what makes his German campaign so strange is not the product, mobile service, but the way in which it is presented. The rap star appears out of a fridge donning a wavy haired wig. He looks like a throwback to the 1940s big band era. For his out of character performance Snoop makes our list at number 7.
6) Kobe Bryant: Big Man Small Car
Kobe Bryant has been one of the NBA’s top players for nearly 20 years. You would expect to find him selling some brand of athletic shoe or some fashionable clothing. In China however, he is selling something that you would least expect a basketball player to own; the ultra-compact Smart Car. It is hard to imagine the 6 foot 6 inch Bryant fitting into a Smart Car but fit he does and manages to evade an elephant, while saving a child in a peanut costume in the process. For all of these reasons Kobe comes in at number 6.
5) Leonardo Di Caprio: Million Dollar Cell phone deal
Leonardo Di Caprio has become one of the most sought after leading men in Hollywood. He is known has being serious about his art and has managed to translate this attitude into landing some of the biggest dramatic roles in film. Although he only sells serious items in North America like Tag Heuer watches, he has a wider scope for articles overseas. He has pitched a few wireless companies abroad. The most famous of these was for OPPO mobile in China where the actor was paid a whopping $5 million for 5 commercials, thus being paid $1 per 15 second slot. The monstrous amount of money paid out allows this ad, and Leo, to be included on the list.
4) Sylvester Stallone: Russian Roots to sell Vodka
Sylvester Stallone spent a long time as one of the most popular action stars in Hollywood. He is known for portraying tough, usually Italian, characters who end up prevailing, often against, seemingly, insurmountable odds. Sly has never really promoted any products in North America but in Russia he had an extensive add campaign. Stallone you see is not only Italian, but Ukrainian on his mother’s side as well. This was the premise of an ad campaign for Russian Vodka. The dialogue in the commercials states the fact that Stallone is in fact Russian and, as such, demands the finer things in life including this particular vodka. It is not the fact that he is selling vodka that allows this ad to make our list, but rather the fact that he is using his Russian heritage to do so. It is surreal!
3) George Clooney: Hangover bonus
George Clooney has endorsed a number of products both in North America and abroad. The items have ranged from watches, to martinis to coffee. Most of these were done in a rather classic way. However, audiences were allowed to get a glimpse of Clooney’s humorous side when he endorsed a Norwegian bank. The scene involves a woman waking up in a hotel room without any idea of how she got there. She eventually realizes that she got married during a marathon night of drinking. Her new husband walks in the door and ends up being George Clooney. The couple then look at houses to buy while the bank’s name appears on screen. The laughs warrant a third place in the list.
2) Tommy Lee Jones: Men In Black Reversal
Tommy Lee Jones is remembered by many fans as being agent K in the hit movie Men In Black. Building on this theme a Japanese canned coffee company, Boss, ran a campaign in which Jones became an alien in disguise taking notes about human civilization. Jones appeared in 38 installments in this ad campaign and was placed in countless everyday jobs on his fact finding mission. The constant is the Boss canned coffee drink that the alien Jones” imbibes. Near the end of the campaign, the alien Jones left earth, his mission accomplished, only to return because of his intense love of the beverage. The length on the campaign and the character himself makes this number 2 on our list.
1) Arnold Schwarzenegger: Everything in Japan
Arnold Schwarzenegger has accomplished incredible things in his lifetime. From his humble roots in Austria, he managed to turn a successful bodybuilding career into a run as Hollywood’s top action star and a stint as the governor of California. Throughout all of these events Arnold was also leading a secret life, as the ultimate pitch man in Japan. He has been a spokesman for Direct TV, anti-piracy advocate, cup of noodles and and energy drink, (which included ultra-weird commercials). Arnold has embraced his Asian popularity and has been a genie, has worn screw top hats, has appeared out of a woman’s thoughts and has eaten a ton of noodles. Arnold is truly the king of overseas endorsement and deserves to top our list.