Actors have long endorsed everything from chicken to perfume, from butter to underwear, and a nod from a famous person is as valuable to a brand as it has ever been. But what about those who were in hilarious ads before they hit the big time? Well, in honour of ITV’s You Saw Them Here First here’s a reminder of the best, cheesiest and weirdest of them all…
Remember the 2004 AA ad with Bev and Kev who kept repeating each others’ names through the car window? Well, Bev was played by Olivia Colman, superstar of British TV. And even though the ad’s not quite as critically-acclaimed at her heart-wrenching performance in Broadchurch, she is playing two characters at once…
The famously sweary EastEnders actor might only be a teenager in this ad but he sounds almost exactly the same as Albert Square’s 38 year-old Mick Carter. “Oh no, mum’s at it again” a teenage Dyer groans as he opens the fridge to realise that his old lady has again bought imitation Coca-Cola rather than the real deal. If the ad was remade with Dyer now, his words would probably need to be bleeped out.
Before the Friends star played smooth-talking Joey who charmed women with “how you doin’?”, he was using another chat-up technique involving condiments. In this 1987 Heinz ketchup advert, LeBlanc orders a hot dog, but he refuses tomato sauce from the guy selling him his snack. “I got it covered,” he says with a swagger. The camera zooms up and we see that he’s already opened a ketchup bottle and has positioned it on the ledge of a building above, so that the sauce will drop right down onto his sausage. The gum-chewing, denim jacket-wearing woman next to him is, of course, enthralled by his impressive use of physics.
It took years for Sally and Harry to get together, but Meg Ryan works faster at romance in this 80s toothpaste ad. As she tells her giggling Cheerleader friends about this new minty fresh magic, someone reveals to her that the school heartthrob is waiting for her outside the locker room. So folks, it’s not short skirts, pom-poms or supreme confidence that’ll attract Hot Guy or Hot Girl – it’ll be your use of cavity-reducing fluoride toothpaste.
There’s not a trace of grease on Travolta in this 1970s soap ad. The fresh-faced Travolta scrubs away all dirt (and any traces of bad-boy behaviour) as he and his basketball team sing a barbershop quartet ode to Safeguard soap and all the “lather” that makes them feel ever so clean and pitch-perfect.
Think Turner is fanciable as the Cornish do-gooder in Poldark? Well, his pulling power was once even greater: aged just 19 he managed to pull a woman in a supermarket by buying eggs. In fact he doesn’t even need to fork out for them; he merely catches a falling box of eggs in between ogling women in crop tops and low-slung jeans. Whoever said domestic mundanity wasn’t sexy?
Long before Gone Girl, Affleck tried his hand at his own act of deception in this Burger King ad. A breathless, sexy-sounding woman has dialled the wrong number and mistook the floppy-haired teen for the fast food chain, so in true rule-breaking American spirit he speeds along in his ride to deliver some lettuce leaves to the mystery lady. Leaving it on her doorstep, he looks longingly at her from the car before calling his mum to say “I’ll be right home.” Presumably he realised that in reality, standing on her doorstep and saying, “I’m not actually a Burger King employee, but merely a hormonal teenage boy with oddly good skin” would seem creepy.
Louis Theroux, Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish
This isn’t an advert and they’re not actors but it would be a travesty not to include it because it’s so glorious. In a way, this 1990 clip of Theroux and comedians Adam and Joe is an advert, just not a commercial one. It’s an advert for the joyful effects of 90s dancing with your friends. And for how prancing around your living room is not barrier to great success. If Louis Theroux, king of documentaries, can get down to Groove is in the Heart, then so should everyone else.
Can you remember any other famous faces who made you cringe or giggle before they hit the big time? Let us know in the comments box below.
Kasia is a TV, film and arts journalist who writes news, feautures and comment. She spends a lot of time feeling nostalgic about 90s American films and working her way back through the Desert Island Discs archive.