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Celebs loaning their voices to commercials

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Just because you don’t see celebrities endorsing products, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there. An increasing number of actors are taking a more subtle approach to selling, by doing voice-overs. ”Two days don’t go by where I don’t get a letter or phone call from agents trying to sell a celebrity as a voice-over,” says Larry Kopald of the Foote, Cone & Belding ad agency in Los Angeles. Industry insiders say celebs can earn up to $500,000 (the fee United Airlines reportedly pays Gene Hackman for his spots). But what’s in it for advertisers? ”A voice you’ve heard before is reassuring, and that helps [the pitch],” says David O’Hare of Goodby, Berlin & Silverstein. Herewith our follow-up (see EW #108, March 6, 1992) on the voices behind the commercials — and why they’re there.

Rob Morrow
FAME: Dr. Joel Fleischman on Northern Exposure
THE AD: A camera follows a wobbly shopping cart through a supermarket while Morrow touts buying groceries with the credit card.
THE PITCH: ”It’s more than a credit card; it’s smart money.”
HIS/HER APPEAL: ”Rob’s voice is very engaging, very disarming and witty. He also has a natural intelligence that comes through.” — Joan Bogin, vice president of advertising, MasterCard

Joanne Woodward
FAME: Oscar-winning actress
THE AD: At a doctor’s office, a pregnant woman in mid-sonogram holds the phone to her stomach so her husband can hear the baby reach out and kick.
THE PITCH: ”The real you coming through. Your true voice.”
HIS/HER APPEAL: ”She has a tremendous amount of feeling in her voice and she doesn’t try to hide it.” — Betsy Mansfield, senior vice president/creative director, FCB/Leber Katz Partners

Patrick Stewart
RCA Home Theater
FAME: Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation
THE AD: RCA’s spokesdogs Nipper and Chipper are cast from side to side while watching a storm-tossed ship at sea on TV.
THE PITCH: ”You’ll feel like you’re really there.”
HIS/HER APPEAL: ”We have these cute, goofy, fun dogs and then Patrick gives you the information in a businesslike manner. There’s nothing goofy about his voice.” — Tony Gomes, senior vice president, Ammirati & Puris

Whoopi Goldberg
FAME: Oscar-winning actress and pop-culture icon
THE AD: Two women share the times of their lives — and Avon cosmetics.
THE PITCH: ”Women are beautiful.”
HIS/HER APPEAL: ”We chose Whoopi because her voice is real and accessible. It’s not the trained voice of an actor; it’s someone you know.” — David Curtis, co-group creative director, FCB/Leber Katz Partners

John Corbett
Isuzu Trooper
FAME: Philosophizing deejay Chris on Northern Exposure
THE AD: Two guys heading for a football play-off game forget their tickets but drive to the perfect spot overlooking the stadium.
THE PITCH: ”Life’s an adventure — be prepared.”
HIS/HER APPEAL: ”We wanted someone who was observant, who had a compassionate voice that would present a situation and then make it relevant.” — David O’Hare, associate creative director, Goodby, Berlin & Silverstein