All serious aspiring actors giving themselves into the business, whether they have graduated from top acting schools or not, very often get their feet wet in commercials. Getting yourself a job filming a product advertisement will be more about the money rather than the actual big leap forward with your theatrical career, however, it still goes a long way in terms of connections, exposure and you can put it on your acting CV/resume.
Depending how successful the commercial is, and whether it’s a small scale or a full blown international television advertisement, it is possible that you can make yourself quite a bit of money from such gigs (and don’t forget royalties, too!) That’s why commercial auditions is something a lot of young thespians are focusing on first, but this field can get quite competitive, and it’s that much harder to book the gig if you don’t know all the ethics’ subtleties of auditioning for commercials.
How to Succeed in Commercial Auditions
Unlike your stage and film/TV work, your success with getting invited for a commercial job will depend more on the training you have received rather than your credits and previous work experience of doing ads. Aside from the importance of training, as we already discussed in Reasons Why Acting Workshops Are Necessary, there are numerous other personal and professional qualities of yours that you can focus on to increase chances of getting called and booking the job altogether.
Quick tip from Acting in London before we begin: Hopefully by now, seeing as you’re already pursuing a career in acting, you have been watching television like an actor (not just a consumer). Meaning when it’s a TV show or a film, you pay attention to what choices actors make and why they do what they do. Trust me, if you’ve started doing that already, it will come with time and never go away. For commercial auditions, make sure you always stay on your couch during those annoying ads — watch what they do and how they do it, and learn from them.
Let’s start from the moment you prepare and walk through that door.
Controversy. If you’re going for a Coca-Cola commercial, don’t come in wearing a t-shirt with a huge Pepsi logo on it. Some casting people are very touchy about this.
Openness. Commercial auditions are different from theatrical/film/TV ones. Whatever your mood for the day, try and smile at all times and be approachable. Remember, you’re selling something here — be a good salesman.
Enthusiasm. The moment you’re in the room, show your energy. Casting people need to see your desire to sell the product and spot your energy for being able to do so. Light up that fire!
Warmth. In addition to being open and smiling, this goes without saying, be a likable and warm person. Use humor and your enthusiasm to sell yourself to casting directors so that they can later let you sell their product.
Uniqueness. Like with every audition, bring your personality and be yourself. Use a variety of “colors” to paint pictures with the way you audition, you express yourself, sing and dance (if you have to). Highlight the product using the best of your own personal traits.
Enunciation. The speech you’re about to do is important, so you need to train your tongue to be ready for it. Practice your articulation, diction, enunciation and pronunciation exercises. Make sure those words are as sharp as a needle.
When you’re ready to do a commercial audition for a casting director…
Variety. Always be prepared to do many different things during commercial auditions. You will often hear “give me something else,” and you should be able to switch instantly and bring a different character/presentation to the table. Come prepared to do this.
Sincerity. When you’re reading your copy, be honest and sincere. Think of it as if you’re learning lines with your best actor friend. You don’t need to act as much as you need to be a real, energetic person, and just plain believable.
Product. Remember that episode from “Friends” with Joey and the Noodle Soup? Never screw up the name. When you say it, do so with confidence — loud and clear. Throw in the most likable part of your personality in there, too.
Direction. Listen carefully when you’re being directed. Unlike regular auditions where you shouldn’t expect any direction whatsoever, commercial auditions are the opposite. Stand and look where you’ve been told to look, and if nobody said anything, then it’s usually straight into the camera.
Improvisation. Be ready to do improvisation, as commercial auditions will very often require this from actors. You might get a copy of the script where there will be text first, and the second part will say “improvisation.” Be ready to talk about the product and why you love it (even if you’ve never tried it before).
Lastly, use every bit of salesman in you during your commercial auditions. Hopefully you’ve in the business for a little while and know how to sell yourself as an actor. Use those marketing skills and everything you have learned in commercial acting classes in London, New York or Los Angeles. And most importantly, during all this charade, try and have fun! This will make the whole process of commercial auditions so much more enjoyable and you will definitely deliver a better performance. Then if you don’t get it, at least you’ve had fun.