Commercials, once just the reserve of our radios, billboards and TVs, have now extended on to our phones and desktops, podcasts and streaming videos... Daily, we are exposed to literally hundreds of adverts and the models and actors in them. But do we ever know their names? Most likely not. When it comes to making it big as an actor in Hollywood, hopefuls quickly learn that it’s a very tough business to break into - and adverts are rarely a 'big break'. When an actor is first starting out, the first thing they're likely to do is get an agent so they can get in on as many big auditions as possible. In the meantime, until the fame and fortune starts paying the bills these aspiring actors are usually working day and night jobs while taking classes and making contacts.
While making it on a television show or starring in a film may be the ultimate goal, many actors pay the bills by booking commercials. In fact, many celebrities that we know today like Seth Green, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Leonardo DiCaprio, and more got their start by starring in commercials and getting the exposure that they needed to make it big.
Of course, there are always celebrities and athletes making appearances in commercials, contributing their talents - or just their names and faces - to a product. Take Isaiah Mustafa for example, the former professional football player became the face of Old Spice by portraying “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” in a commercial that went viral. “24” and “The Unit” actor Dennis Haysbert has become a spokesperson for Allstate and his iconic, “Allstate: Are you in good hands?” rings in the ears of viewers all over North America.
On the noteably less lucrative flipside, though, there have been several actors who have become celebrities because of their work in commercials. From the instant fame gained by their work in an iconic advertising campaign, some actors have been able to make a good living that rivals some mainstream celebrity lifestyles. Here, we've brought you the lowdown on five of those rare specimens; the richest actors who make a living doing commercials. Of course, with exposure and fame from their work, the doors have been opened for other possibilities and opportunities. You may know these five characters better by their character names, but let us introduce you to the people behind the brands.
5. Stephanie Courtney aka “Flo” - $1 Million
When Stephanie Courtney first arrived in Los Angeles, she was there to make it big as a stand-up comedian. She became a member of the group The Groundlings (and is still a senior member today), and was auditioning for commercials around town, but was finding very little success. In fact, she was only booking about one commercial a year. But she was shot into the advertising industry limelight in 2008 when Progressive Insurance decided to cast her as “Flo”, with the angle that car insurance can be a pleasant shopping experience if there’s a good sales girl on hand. Flo’s fan page has over 3 million likes on Facebook and there are still new commercials coming out every year featuring Flo in different situations and scenarios which lands Courtney a comfortable salary of $500K per year.
6 Diane Amos aka “The Pine-Sol Lady” - $2.5 Million
We've all seen her grace our television screens holding up a bottle of Pine-Sol, raving about the fresh pine scent in her house. Amos is an actress, a mother of two children, and a stand up comedian who first took on the role of the Pine-Sol lady in 1993. She was cast in the role because the company thought she would be a believable spokesperson as someone who would actually use the product. Amos commented that she was familiar with Pine-Sol prior to taking on the role, as her mother Pearl was an active user of the product. She was also relatable to their target customer base and she became a beloved character for the company by consumers and fans all over. Today, Amos comments that she gets recognized regularly and she currently resides in San Francisco, CA.
5 Carly Foulkes aka “The T-Mobile Girl” - $3 Million
This Canadian model made quite an impact when she became the T-Mobile spokesperson in the fall of 2010 and she became known as the girl in pink who told the world about a better cell phone service. Catherine Zeta-Jones was the spokesperson before Foulkes, which meant that she had some pretty big shoes to fill, but she filled them well as it led to Foulkes' long-term contract with T-Mobile with a salary of about $1 million a year.. Foulkes got her start in modeling when she was a teenager and worked in New York City for quite a while before transitioning into acting. On her audition for the phone company, she kept pronouncing mobile in the Canadian English way rather than the American way, but this clearly didn't deter the casting directors from offering her the role.
4 Dean Winters aka “Mayhem” - $4 Million
Dean Winters is best known as playing “Mayhem” in the Allstate commercials, in which he portrays different catastrophic situations that result in damage to your vehicle. Him 'mayhem' demonstrates the consequences of drivers who have insurance plans with other companies and lose benefits because they didn’t want to pay too much. Before he stepped into the role of Mayhem in 2010, Winters made numerous guest appearances in television shows such as “Oz”, “30 Rock”, “Law & Order: SVU”, “Sex and the City”, just to name a few. When he landed the role of Mayhem, though, his status shot up as the commercials became an instant hit. Before he joined up with Allstate, Winters was on a break from acting due to a few severe health problems that took him out for a few seasons, which for an actor could be disastrous but he managed to make a quick comeback with the Allstate commercials.
3 Jonathan Goldsmith aka “The Most Interesting Man in the World” - $8 Million
Jonathan Goldsmith got the role of Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World” by being...well...the most interesting man who auditioned for the part. At the time Goldsmith was living on a boat in Beverly Hills and was able to improvise in the audition, telling stories of boat life; sneaking into dinners with ambassadors, and using homing pigeons. Not only that, but the actor (now in his 70’s) removed his sock and shoe, which made a lasting impression with casting directors. Dos Equis beer made a good decision in casting Goldsmith in the role as his presence helped double the profits of the brand. This was probably because viewers enjoyed the character and his bragging about his accomplishments. Before he took on “The Most Interesting Man in the World” role, the actor played the bad guy in numerous television shows in the nineties, but his role as the Dos Equis guy is largely responsible for his huge net worth.
2 Peter Marcarelli - $10 Million
"Can you hear me now?" has become synonymous with the Verizon brand thanks to Peter Marcarelli, who was cast as the "Test Man" in 2001 and enjoyed a 9 year long career making a living primarily from these commercials. Before Marcarelli landed the role, he was sharing an apartment with his boyfriend and a friend, and was a struggling actor. One moment, he's playing to audiences of 100, and the next moment he's performing during the Super Bowl halftime show to 85,000 people plus those watching television. With a paycheck totaling to $10 million, Marcarelli did pretty well for himself before Verizon closed the curtain on the "Test Man" in 2011.
1 Jared Fogle - $15 Million
Okay, maybe Jared Fogle isn't technically an actor, but he definitely makes his living from doing Subway commercials with a wealth of $15 million. Fogle rose to fame in 1999-2000 when it was discovered that he lost 245 pounds in a year from eating Subway sandwiches. Subway executives first found Fogle from a local college newspaper write up on his weight loss success and things have been uphill for Fogle since. He face and name now go hand in hand with the Subway brand, and with less than 6 grams of fat on numerous Subway sandwiches, millions have reach the same weight loss success as Jared.