21 April 2009
by Kate McClanaghan,

Becoming familiar with what’s current by studying commercials as a medium will allow you, the actor, to discover for yourself the variety of
commercial styles you’re best suited to play.

Just as there are stage styles, film styles, and television styles out there, there are commercial styles as well, and it’s a tangible art.
Studying the media (both commercial work and television) will certainly help you define where and what sort of work you’re probably best
suited to book (secure).

The more you audition the more you’ll find that those auditioning you will refer to specific commercials or TV shows. This study will define
what they are talking about and give you a greater fighting chance. Conversely, if you’re the right type but have no idea what they are
referring to, you are less likely to land the work.

Commercials, film and commercial television is the language producers, copywriters, and directors speak; it’s called pop culture. They are
most likely to describe what they’re looking for by using the most obvious possible references they can think of that’s closest to their vision.
They will throw you these pop-culture bones—you’re expected to catch and utilize them, rather than let them sail right over your head. You’re
expected to pick them up and run with them.

Keep in mind, advertising Creatives (commercial producers, copywriters and Creative Directors) usually have a hard enough time
directing. And when it comes to voiceover, you’re likely to be directed by the Creative who wrote the spot: the copywriter.
Occasionally, the copywriter will defer to the producer or the engineer for input. However, it’s important to note: nowhere near any of those
titles (producer, copywriter, or engineer) does the term director appear. No wonder the greatest complaint most actors have after a
commercial voiceover session is, “They didn’t give me any direction beyond, ‘We’re looking for a non-announce announce (whatever that
means). Y’know, warm, friendly, conversational… just be yourself—go.’”

As talent we’re always expected to show up with plenty of performance options to offer, within the parameters of what’s being asked of us.
Additional, we’re expected to be decisive and fully committed to each delivery.  This is the case because as talent we are a vital part of the
creative process.

On a voiceover or commercial session, they’re looking at you wondering what you’re going to bring to the mix. Assuming you have
something to bring to the table, of course. (And you do, you know, if you’ve come to play.) You are paid to have a pulse, so start pumping
some life into that dead fish, my friend. A script can look pretty flat on the page until you start fleshing it out with some real spirit of play!
If you’ve done your homework, you’re not as likely to be thrown off guard. In fact, you’ll feel quite stable on this playing field. So get your land
legs by thoroughly studying the medium you intend to work in.

Do your homework. Commit yourself to studying television and commercial styles for no less than an hour and a half a week. That’s the
least you can do. The more you do it, the easier this work will become because you’ll understand on an entirely different level than you ever
have before.

You’ll be very surprised how much you will glean from even an hour or so of study. And the more you do this, the more you’ll become
innately familiar with the variety of commercial styles. They won’t seem as forced or unreal to you—just the opposite.

Ultimately, you’ll learn that the object of the game here is to simply BE WHO YOU ARE! Because being who you are is far more interesting
than watching you try to be something you’re not. Watching an actor attempt to morph into something artificial or forced is an effort to watch
and should be avoided.

I promise you, what’s needed and wanted from you for the most part is for you to be who you are—that’s what’s real! It’s honest. And it’s far
easier than you ever may have suspected.

There is a tremendous power in simplicity.  

Kate McClanaghan
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Determining Your Commercial Strengths, VOL. II
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Determining Your Commercial Strengths, VOL. I
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