TV Article

Celebrities Speak Easy

Stars lend their voices to commercials -- Lily Tomlin, Johnny Cash, and Adam Arkin can be heard in current ads

The next voice you hear could be...Lily Tomlin for Microsoft? Yes, the world's most famous switchboard operator is one of the latest Hollywood stars to lend her larynx to television ads — joining such veteran voice — over artists as Donald Sutherland (Volvo), Jack Lemmon (Honda), and Tommy Lee Jones (Red Dog beer). For the stars, money is still the primary incentive: Five- and six-figure paychecks are now the norm for a few hours' work. For Madison Avenue, such celebrated voices heighten the hard sell. Explains Mike Davison, a VP and executive producer with the ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding, ''Actors can wrap themselves around a phrase and give it a little bit extra.'' Herewith, some who can be heard but not seen:

The Pitcher: Lily Tomlin for Microsoft Encarta.
The Ad: A techno tale about a guy named Glen who wants to hang-glide.
The Pitch: ''Where do you want to go today?''
Why Her? ''Lily does really imaginative things with her voice, which combines humanity and comedy,'' says copywriter Jean Rhode of Wieden & Kennedy, which created the spot.

The Pitcher: Johnny Cash for Folgers coffee.
The Ad: A wife uses the aroma of coffee to wake up her husband before their daughter's homecoming.
The Pitch: ''Mornings like this deserve an eye-opening start.''
Why Him? ''He has a voice that embodies the spirit of Folgers,'' says a Procter & Gamble spokeswoman.

The Pitcher: Peter Coyote (Bitter Moon) for Mazda.
The Ad: A luxury car speeds through a mountain range as a blue moon sets and the sun rises.
The Pitch: ''Once in a blue moon, something comes along that alters the status quo.''
Why Him? ''Peter's voice is very authoritative,'' says Mike Davison of Foote, Cone & Belding. ''Plus his command of the spoken word is really what drew us to him. Boy, is he good.''

The Pitcher: Grant Shaud (Murphy Brown) for Certs.
The Ad: As visions of Certs dance in her head, a girl works up the courage to flirt with a guy.
The Pitch: ''Get certain, get Certs.''
Why Him? ''The campaign talks to that little voice inside our heads that worries about bad breath,'' says Kathleen Ramsdell, product manager for Certs. ''His voice sounds worried, but it's not so far gone that it's neurotic.''

The Pitcher: Adam Arkin (Chicago Hope) for Compaq computers.
The Ad: After PC users rage against the machine, we see a user whose Compaq obeys every command.
The Pitch: ''The idea of talking to a computer is not a new one. Getting a response certainly is.''
Why Him? ''Adam sounds like somebody who's really knowledgeable,'' says Brent Bouchez, senior VP/creative director of Ammirati & Puris/Lintas, ''but he doesn't come across as a gearhead.''

Originally posted Aug 04, 1995 Published in issue #286 Aug 04, 1995 Order article reprints
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