Actors in TV ads: are they selling out?

Last updated 13:37 08/06/2012

"Any performer that ever sells a product on television is for now and all eternity removed from the artistic world." Standup comedian Bill Hicks was rather unforgiving about performers starring in TV commercials.

It's that Lost in Translation moment. A Hollywood actor stars in a foreign TV commercial, but attempts to keep their credibility intact by making sure it never airs in the US. They get to keep the money, but remain pure and unsullied in the eyes of their homeland fans. David Duchovny is doing just that. The X-Files star can be seen grinning for whisky in a Kiwi ad that I assume will never air in the US.

Duchovny is the latest in a string of Hollywood actors to star in New Zealand commercials. Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel and, er, Vincent Gallo have all been in Steinlager ads. Hugh Jackman dances around on the telly all the time trying to sell us iced tea, of all things.

But, of course, the internet has changed everything. A simple Google search means anyone in the US can now see their beloved movie actors doing the equivalent of tap dancing for loose change.

It means I can show you Arnold Schwarzeneggar starring in this utterly bewildering Japanese ad:

And I can show you Woody Allen in this really rather good Telecom Italia ad:

But, to my mind, the most utterly shameless example is Dennis Hopper in this Ford ad:

Hopper not only sells himself to Ford, but he also sells the auto giant his 1960s counterculture gem Easy Rider. I suppose you could argue it is an actor's decision to sell out, but do you have to sell out your entire generation and all its values at the same time?

Did you see that little grin just before Hopper leaves his younger self in the dust? Altamont or Charlie Manson didn't spell the end of hippie culture, it was right there in that smug grin.

So, do you care? Is starring in an ad a shameless sellout that means they are no longer artists, or is it just a bit of fun? Do you agree with Bill Hicks or should we let them off the hook?

Have you got any good examples of Hollywood stars secretly selling their souls? If so, put the YouTube link in the comments section below and I shall compile them for a post next week.

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25 comments
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danny sims   #1   01:46 pm Jun 08 2012

GOTSTA GET PAIIIIIDDDDDDD!! POP! POP!

azza   #2   01:52 pm Jun 08 2012

I have seen George Clooney in those coffee adds too? That seemed weird to me

J   #3   01:53 pm Jun 08 2012

They'll sign up for ads in the States too if they get enough $$$. Pepsi has had Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Christina Aguliera and Pink at the height of their respective fame plus I'm sure many more. I guess it's not really any different from a role in TV/Film if you think about it. There is always a pay packet right?

bobberesford.com   #4   02:05 pm Jun 08 2012

Agreed , Dennis Hopper is REALLY selling out here . But I guess the money must have been REALLY good ( 1/2 to 1 million ? ) . Good enough for the Born to be Wild writer Dennis Edmonton/Mars Bonfire to release the song . At least 50 grand US just for that ?....plus royalties on play ?

Arnold Payola Schwarzenegger is a sellout joke anyway , especially with the way he ran California. Though that add reminds me how much Japanese companies can and will pay . And that Hayley Westenra has recorded 2 albums of re-hashed Japanese pop songs for that market........no doubt for absolutely sincere artistic reasons.

I quite like Hugh Jackman's Lipton Tea adds - harmless , and he does them so well....though I generally hate adds.

That Woody Allen add is just funny . He has principles , but he can take the money and still promote his comedy at same time. He gets to script it and the hard sell comes after.....no logos etc while he's talking.

But overall , musicians shouldn't sell out top songs for adds , as Bob Dylan has done ( playing Vegas was bad enough ? ). Even with his alimony issues .

Neil Young has criticised Dylan for that, and the concept , rightly saying that these songs form the soundtrack of our lives . So it's just messing with peoples memories and emotions. The creators benefit enough when the song is a hit.....shouldn't sell it out later.

Leon   #5   02:25 pm Jun 08 2012

An actor is somebody with (usually) a pretty face, who is paid to read something that somebody wrote down for them, that may be in fact nothing to do with their real personality.

This applies equally if they are on a TV show, or the ad during the TV show.

bOb   #6   02:53 pm Jun 08 2012

How is an actor getting paid to sell a movie any different to an actor getting paid to sell a car? The "sell out" tag is only really based on the quality of output from each.

nrg   #7   03:47 pm Jun 08 2012

Bill Hicks was right. These mother lovers make more money than 95% of the population but they still feel the need to whore themselves for shite products. You are struck off the artistic role call. Except Willie Nelson, he gets a pass.

El Jorge   #8   05:12 pm Jun 08 2012

I hate the Hugh Jackman Lipton dancing commercial.

Its a blatant and shoddy rip-off of Fatboy Normans 'Weapon of Choice' video clip with the uber-talented Christopher Walken: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM1fkHQP_Pw

Ricky   #9   07:31 pm Jun 08 2012

My goal in life is to sell out. It is what I've been preparing 36 years for

Andrew   #10   12:59 am Jun 09 2012

Who cares? Being afraid of selling out has more to do with people pleasing than anything else. People sling verbal mud at celebrities selling out but years down the track no one will care whether they did or not. It may seem like a big deal at the time but no one gives a sh*t later on.

People in the entertainment industries want to move forward and constantly build their careers and if an opportunity comes along that pays well and keeps their name out there in the public, can you really blame them for taking it? No one said working in the entertainment industry was gonna be easy. People may criticise negatively, but at the end of the day, the person supposedly selling out goes home and gets on with their lives and moves on to the next thing. Like we all should.


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