Targeting Commercials

I’ve written a lot about targeting. Targeting reps. Targeting TV projects. Targeting casting directors who populate those projects. Targeting, targeting, targeting. It’s the second pillar of Self-Management for Actors. It’s a pretty big player in how I advise everyone approach the next tier.

What about targeting commercials? For those actors whose brands align with hero mom (you know, the one who saves the day with the exact right paper towel) or doofus dad (you know, the one who wrecked the kitchen so that hero mom can save the day with the exact right paper towel) or tech-savvy, super-helpful, blue-shirt-wearing employee (you know, the one in every commercial from AT&T or Honda or Best Buy lately), there’s a ton of work.

But how do you find that work? How do you find out who’s casting it? How do you target those buyers?

Ah, aren’t you glad I’m here. 😉 Let’s dig in.

Now, if you’re not already down with “the IMDb for commercials,” let me introduce you to iSpot.tv (start at the iSpot.tv/browse page to dive in by ad category). At this site, you can spend hours browsing ads for all sorts of brands, products, and services, and usually learn a decent amount of information about how these spots were put together.

Let’s walk through an ad currently featured in the communication category for the iSpot.tv site: AT&T’s “Professional Women” starring one of those helpful blue-shirt-wearing employees I mentioned above. In this case, using iSpot.tv, we learn that the lead actor’s name is Milana Vayntrub. Looking at her iSpot profile, we can see several of her recent spots. If you’re an actor who could book similar work, this is great data about your bullseye for potential future commercial bookings, right? (Why bother slinging spaghetti for any other styles of ads or any perpendicular brands?)

Okay, before we spend much more time with Milana (we will revisit her), let’s also notice that this ad is shot for AT&T (duh) and that the ad agency is BBDO. Its “mood” is “funny” (ooh… a word for the brand alignment of your commercial bullseye). A quick Google of BBDO AT&T leads to a treasure trove of ads created for AT&T by BBDO (all “funny”) and, again, if you’re the type of actor who could nail any of the roles you’ve seen over the years in these spots, this historical data is gold. Heck, poking around BBDO’s website to see other brands for whom they craft ads, we can see a great bunch of ways particular actors may be a solid fit for getting into these casting rooms.

Ahh… these casting rooms. Once we’ve decided you’re the right fit for these ads, how do we get you to that part of the equation? Okay, this is where we’re relying on the casting directors’ ability to self-promote a bit. Luckily, commercial casting directors traditionally have the best websites in the casting community. Their sites include stills from the casting directors’ best ads, galleries of brands for which they cast, sometimes even a list of ad agencies with whom they collaborate and directors with whom they jam. So, get down with the websites of top commercial casting directors. Download their resumés. Pay attention!

Um… so where are those websites with all these juicy details? Great news! Remember when I told you that CastingAbout launched a listing for commercial casting directors? Go there. Sort by commercial casting offices. When you click on any commercial casting office in the master list, the lovely pop-up should include, in the top left corner, the words “visit official site,” to which the casting director’s (most likely awesome) website is linked. Boom. Now you’re getting ever-closer to your target.

When you see target brands from target ad agencies — and especially if you see the names of the directors of those previous ads included — on a casting director’s website, you know you’ve found a specific casting director to target. It may take a bunch of Googling to find all the various players in any particular campaign, but your research will pay off! Read articles at AdAge and AdWeek. Geek out on pieces written about the technical elements of particular commercials (because you’ll rarely find an article about the casting of any particular ad, even though ads do win Emmys). Oh, and on that parenthetical bit, note that ads also win Clios and Addys and Peabody Awards. If you really want to go down the rabbit hole, visit the archived lists of awards for ads from each of those organizations (and others) and start building up your show bible on folks whose participation made all that “gold and shiny” stuff possible. These are your targets.

Stop that habit of TiVoing past the commercials if this is a source of income you’d enjoy. Start watching ads to notice which ones match the breakdowns you’ve seen. Seriously, don’t discount the data that’s coming into your life via breakdowns for projects! When your agent sends you the sides and the breakdown and the location for a commercial audition, SAVE that info! No, I’m not asking you to become a hoarder. I’m suggesting that when you read a breakdown that is sooo your bullseye for a brand whose identity you’d love to pitch, save that information! The casting director’s information is right there. Maybe even the director’s name. Certainly, the ad agency details are findable. And when you SEE the ad on TV or at iSpot.tv later, you’ll be able to add *more* details to the info you saved from the breakdown.

Talk about long-haul badassery! You’re building your commercial show bible in a truly ninja way, with these tactics.

Now, what if you’d prefer to just go through an agent? You’re not looking to build relationships with commercial CDs, do all that tracking, hope to have them remember you when they’re actively casting, trust that they may look at your direct submission? I get it. God bless agents for being your shortcut to most commercial casting offices! Luckily, there are commercial agents who will sign you due to your look alone (unlike with theatrical agents, who generally need a lot more elements to line up before being “hell yes” about you).

But it’s not just about being with one of “the big commercial agencies,” although that’s certainly helpful, if you’re targeting commercials. Just like with theatrical rep targeting, if you can be with the commercial agency that is the direct line into the casting office for which your brand books regularly, there’s nothing but good news flowing your way.

So, let’s revisit our current AT&T pitch gal, Milana Vayntrub. Now that we know her name thanks to iSpot.tv, we head over to IMDb-Pro and discover that, today, her commercial agency is Reign. In fact, she’s currently their top client (when listed by StarMeter ranking) of their 609 clients listed on IMDb. Should you target Reign? Depends! Do allllllll of the same homework I’d have you do for a theatrical match-up and then just keep in mind that you’re looking at (usually) a less hands-on relationship, a more crowded roster, and a much more looks-based experience all the way around, when it comes to commercial representation.

What if you know a particular agency is one of the top commercial ones (say, KMR, for example). You can also work this targeting advice in reverse by opening that agency’s roster on IMDb-Pro, checking out their client list, and — let’s say you decide to check out Allyn Rachel (an actor who certainly shows up at the same auditions as Milana Vayntrub; this is not an accident, as trends go). You open her up because, on their client roster, you recognize her as a top commercial booker. You move from IMDb-Pro back over to iSpot.tv, where you can check out Allyn’s latest ads and, you guessed it, details about the folks that populate those!

This is important because what you’re calling your target agency may never get its clients booking on your target ads for your target brands. Meaning: So WHAT if they’re considered a top commercial agency, if they’re not the right fit for YOU?!?

See how it all loops back around? Targeting is *such* a multifaceted aspect of the commercial booking process. And certainly, you don’t have to target, ever. You can walk around and hope to bump into the career of your dreams, whether theatrical or commercial or legit stage or voiceover or anything else! 🙂 That’s the cool part of this business: You really *can* just happen into the life of your dreams.

But why leave so much to chance? If you’re the type who could really be a huge commercial booker, in addition to getting into classes (my free SMFA Hot List of recommended coaches is here) so that you can nail your audition when you *do* get in the room, how about lining up those targets (brands, ad agencies, directors, casting directors, and of course agents) who can best get you to your next Super Bowl ad? Ah… so simple. Not easy. But simple. Yay! Happy targeting!

Oh, before I close off for the week, something that is totally simple *and* easy is joining me for our quarterly free Self-Management for Actors Tune-Up call! It’ll take place on Friday, July 11th (my birfday!!) at 2:30pm PDT. For access, please sign up here. I cannot wait to jam with you about all the delicious changes in our glorious industry!

Bonnie Autographed the Internet


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001841.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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