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What is Commercial Acting?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Commercial acting is a discipline within the field of acting which is focused on acting for commercials. Commercials typically air for less than a minute, which requires unique acting skills to ensure that the message of the commercial is conveyed adequately and appropriately to the audience. Actors who specialize in commercials can receive very high pay for their appearances, and some may also use commercials to break into film and television acting.

When a commercial airs, it must sell a product to viewers in an effective way. A huge range of acting styles can be required, from a girl next door marketing soda to a competent, reassuring doctor promoting medications. A good commercial actor can exhibit an array of looks and acting skills, ensuring that he or she will be in demand for a wide range of types of commercials.

As with other kinds of acting, commercial acting can be demanding, and it can take a long time to get a foothold in the industry. Commercial acting classes are available for people who want to learn tips and tricks which are useful for people in the industry, and most actors pursue an agent, because open casting calls for commercials are rare. An agent can help an actor get jobs and agents can also shape an actor's looks and skills to make the actor more marketable.

While a commercial may only last a few seconds, it can take hours or days to film. Commercial acting requires people to show up early and work long, hard hours with smiles on their faces, even in inclement conditions like snowy weather, or while wearing uncomfortable garments. Because commercials are so brief, a great deal of attention is paid to the actor's looks, and the actor may spend a great deal of time being made up and touched up during the shoot to ensure that he or she looks flawless.

People who are interested in commercial acting jobs should have headshots prepared and put together resumes. With a headshot and a resume, an actor can attract the attention of an agent, or make an appointment for an open casting call. As actors gain experience, it is also a good idea to pull together a commercial reel, a selection of clips which showcase the actor's skills and experience. Reels can be customized for specific jobs, and they can also be generalized for distribution by an agent to companies looking for actors. It also helps to have memorable or distinctive traits which will help an actor stand out from a crowd, especially in markets which are saturated with actors looking for work.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Viranty — On Feb 22, 2014
@Chmander - The thing about commercials (especially during the Super Bowl) is that it's becoming more and more about money. Quite often, the producers don't care about the quality of their ads, or how little sense it makes, but as long as it pays well, that's all that matters. Yeah, I was really disappointed with many of the advertisements during this years game. I really hope that they step things up next year, or I might stop watching. On the other hand, I really enjoy the commercial actors. It's always nice to see people that you know in ad. My favorite moment of the game was when we saw Tom Hiddleston. He has great charisma.
By Chmander — On Feb 21, 2014

For all the money that goes into making these commercials, honestly, it sometimes feels like a complete waste of time. For the past two years, I have watched the Super Bowl, and I haven't been particularly impressed with any of their advertisements. Did anyone else watch the game this year? The commercials were very lackluster, and they didn't have much variety.

By RoyalSpyder — On Feb 20, 2014

Not only do I admire commercial acting, but I'm really impressed by some of the creativity that goes into making some of these ads. I'm also amazed that even the shortest commercials can take a long time to produce. It really shows that they put a lot of work into making things entertaining for their audience. As far as commercial acting is concerned, I'm not particularly familiar with any famous actors, but I have seen several PSAs with Sarah Mclachlan, and I do think they're pretty annoying.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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