4 Famous Ad People With Rad Lesser Known Work
The marketing firm Yankelovich Inc. estimates that the average person was exposed to 5,000 ads per day in 2007, and that number has only continued to skyrocket. Over the years, we've seen dozens of commercial personalities become household names just from a 15-second TV spot.
While some got their notoriety from ... worse activities, like former Subway spokesperson (and shittiest Justice League member) Jared Fogle, many commercial spokespeople deserve fame beyond their ability to make us buy shit ...
Flo from Progressive Does Stand-Up and Been in a Ton of Shows
Flo from Progressive has been one of the most recognizable and long-running spokespeople since her ads began in 2008. Her real name's Stephanie Courtney, and she got her start in New York City when she joined the acting conservatory Neighborhood Playhouse. Like many young actresses and comedians ...
... Courtney soon moved to Los Angeles and worked several odd jobs like server and receptionist while waiting for her career to take off. Prior to getting her big break with Progressive, she had minor appearances in a bunch of major movies and television shows like Everybody Loves Raymond, and Mad Men.
She even got a part in Blades of Glory ... sort of.
Oddly enough, she even had a three-episode stint on the show/creative pit of despair Cavemen that was inspired by the characters in the GEICO cavemen commercials in 2007.
While unconfirmed, one can guess that this must be where she found her love of insurance-related acting because she morphed into Flo from Progressive the following year.
As Flo, Courtney appeared in over 100 Progressive advertisements, a downloadable character in the video game Modnation Racers, and a truly disturbing amount of erotic fanfic and rule34 that we will absolutely not be linking to.
Courtney has continued acting outside Progressive ads with appearances on Phineas and Ferb, 2 Broke Girls, Mike Tyson Mysteries, and Tim and Eric's Tom Goes to the Mayor.
Related: Who Was the First Stand-Up Comic?
The "Can You Hear Me Now?" Guy from Verizon and Sprint Wrote an Award-Winning Movie
In one of the
juiciest lame as shit "scandals" in the advertising world, Paul Marcarelli made a split from Verizon to its rival Sprint. From 2002-2011, Marcarelli was known as the "Test Character" for Verizon with his now-famous catchphrase, "Can you hear me now?" It became so iconic that Entertainment Weekly went so far as to name him one of the most intriguing people of 2002 ... Look, 9/11 left us in a pretty stupid pop-cultural place for a couple of years.
Marcarelli's break-up with Verizon came in 2011 when the company informed him that they would be moving in a different direction with its ad campaign. Due to a loophole in Verizon's non-compete clause, which would have prevented Marcarelli from serving as a spokesperson for one of its rivals, Sprint was able to approach and hire Marcarelli as their spokesperson and even use the same tagline.
Since 2016, Marcarelli has been the "Can you hear me now?" guy for Sprint. Ads talk about how much better life is with Sprint, how happier this new relationship is, and how Sprint actually remembers his birthday and to do the goddamn dishes every once in a while. Yet, because consumers can be dumb as bricks, this was not without a backlash from nerds too invested in ad characters to support the concept of "Fired Man Finds New Job To Continue Buying Food."
Marcarelli apparently likes playing the field all across the brand marketing industry because he's also been in commercials for a variety of companies like Old Navy, Merrill Lynch, and Heineken. Outside of advertising, Marcarelli has an acting career, including serving as a founding member of the Table Ten Films company and writing/producing the film Clutter, which stars Carol Kane and won Best Film at the Harlem International Film Festival.
Smell Like a Man, Man from Old Spice Was In The NFL
The star of several ads and several of your mother's wine-infused dirty dreams, Isaiah Mustafa is the Old Spice man.
Is there a Nobel Break Me A Piece Prize?
Whether appearing on a horse, white-sandy beach, or on a boat, Mustafa is always willing to bare it all to sell some Old Spice. The Old Spice man has also become a pop culture icon who has been parodied in memes, shows like iCarly, and even Sesame Street's Grover. (Who has also starred in several of your mom's other wine-infused dirty dreams.)
That's some cultural reach right there.
When opting to cover his torso, Mustafa was donning a football jersey during several seasons as a practice squad wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns or acting in more serious roles, like adult Mike Hanlon in It Chapter Two.
Lily from AT&T Became A Superhero
Rounding out our deep dive of iconic commercial spokespeople is Lily Adams from AT&T, who is portrayed by Uzbekistan-born actress Milana Vayntrub. Vayntrub played Lily from 2013-to-2016 and started reprised the role last year.
While arguably less notable of a spokesperson than the "Can you hear me now" guy or Flo, Vayntrub has received a lot of attention for her commercials, though not in the way she would have liked. In August of 2020, Vayntrub went on Instagram Live to discuss the frequent and unsolicited harassment she receives from men online via memes, sexist comments, and requests for nudes. This online harassment has even spilled over onto AT&T's corporate pages, including one AT&T commercial that had to disable comments because of the surplus of gross men commenting about her body. This takes on an even more depressing level of disappointment when you realize that she was in a video asking gross dudes to please stop doing that shit on this very site right before she got the gig:
Fortunately, aside from having to deal with that bullshit, she has also made appearances in shows like This Is Us and Silicon Valley. But best of all, Vayntrub got to be an actual Marvel superhero. (As opposed to us, who have all of Peter Parker's terrible shit, but none of the powers.)
Top image: Old Spice, AT&T