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Why actors in TV ads look so familiar

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She’s a white woman in her 30s standing in a kitchen that’s bougie (but not obnoxiously so). “My diet?” she says to the person on the other end of the phone. “Well, yesterday I had an apple turnover. Mmhmm. I know, it’s sorta my weakness. I always keep it in the house.”

Cut to her husband rummaging furiously through the refrigerator in an attempt to find said apple turnover. But it’s not an actual apple turnover she’s talking about. It’s yogurt. The woman, meanwhile, might just look familiar. At first glance, she could be your friend or your cousin or your cousin’s friend or your friend’s cousin, but more likely, it’s that she’s a veteran actor and comedian who’s been in more than 50 commercials. Her name is Andrea Rosen, and her spot from the mid-2000s remains one of Yoplait’s most memorable and omnipresent marketing efforts.

Rosen’s face has sold everything from Bing.com to the New York Lottery, Staples office supplies, car insurance, and a steak restaurant chain. “I would never go on a tampon commercial because they always wanted models,” she laughs.

Yet few brands seem to be interested in models at all. For decades, one of the main tenets of commercials has been casting “relatable”-looking people. Relatable is desirable; so relatable that you look like a famously relatable celebrity — a Jonah Hill type, a Tina Fey vibe — is even better. And this leads to seeing some of the same actors again and again.

The drive for relatability isn’t particularly new: Nobody could accuse commercial character actors like Mr. Whipple, the Snapple Lady, or the “spicy meatball” couple of selling unattainable standards. But it has been further codified by the rise in advertisements starring real people — or at least professional actors and models who can reasonably pass as real people. This is partially thanks to the democratization of who gets to be in front of the camera, now that a huge portion of Americans have grown up with cameras and social media networks like YouTube, TikTok, and Twitch on which to share videos of themselves.

Orlee Tatarka, an executive producer at Wieden + Kennedy, one of the world’s top advertising agencies, explains: “Everyone has phones; everyone has cameras; everyone’s used to being in the spotlight. It gives a bigger talent pool of people who are comfortable in front of the camera. We get a lot more people who are coming to these casting sessions, and clients are more open to [them].”

“I think people are more open to relatable, empathetic people overall,” she adds.

She nods to the increasingly fluid barriers between the worlds of advertising and entertainment. As commercials have become more like the films and television programs we pay to watch, they’ve gotten less cheesy.

Plus, advertising isn’t limited to commercials anymore. Whether it’s experiential advertising, sponsored content, or social media campaigns, the lines between life and marketing have blurred. “We all grew up with a certain [idea of] what you’re supposed to act like in a commercial,” Tatarka says. “There’s the announcer voice, and then this is the commercial. Because content and advertising and entertainment are all mixing together so much more, what that looks like has widened, so when actors come in for auditions, I find you get more of their authentic selves.”


Commercial actor and acting coach Bill Coelius.
Bill Coelius

The push to make commercials look more like everyday life rather than a high-gloss, sexed-up fantasy often starts with the people who end up getting cast. And for a certain swath of actors who look just enough like normies for us to relate to them, but who also can, y’know, act, it’s a pretty good time to be in the commercial business.

Bill Coelius, who has more than 50 national commercials under his belt, says he looks like “every white guy on the couch,” but it’s also what’s helped him succeed. He’s been a benefactor of the uptick in interest in casting “real people” or actors who can convincingly play them. “It’s my understanding that these exist because we stole something from British television about two decades ago called reality TV,” he says. “Because of that, advertisers started to hire real people for their commercials.”

The problem, though, is that real people can’t memorize their lines or deliver them well, which is where Coelius comes in. Aside from acting in commercials, he also teaches a class to aspiring commercial actors in which the main idea is that actors should provide a service.

“The advertisers, the production company, they have no idea if the commercial is going to work until it runs, and that anxiety is palpable in the audition room,” he says. “When we as actors meet that anxiety with anxiety, there’s no way that we’re going to get hired. What I feel has really helped me is asking the question internally, ‘How can I help? What do you need?’ Because these poor folks are terrified. People’s jobs are on the line. We’ll always get another audition, [but] these guys may never work for [X] product again depending on how this spot goes.”

And sometimes, what the advertisers want is a face who resembles that of another person in the zeitgeist. Bill Parks, a tall, bearded redhead perhaps best known for his roles in Snickers’ “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” ads, says the types of roles he auditions for tend to correlate to the famous faces du jour. “It’ll go through ebbs and flows and be like, ‘Seth Rogen type’ or ‘Zach Galifianakis type.’ Whoever the famous schlubby celebrity of the week is.”

Andrea Rosen, when she was just starting her career, says she would often get sent for roles described as a “Janeane Garofalo type,” which was often just a code word for “funny.” “I was always going out for funny stuff, so I would just do it my way,” she says. “I would change dialogue sometimes if I felt like I could, and I would just make it as true to myself as I could, even though I was selling detergent.”

Even when brands say they want realism and authenticity, they’re still after a pretty narrow definition of the terms. When Bumble, for instance, cast 112 real people for its #FindThemOnBumble campaign in New York City, it didn’t exactly shine a spotlight on its most typical users. “The Bumble users featured in the campaign included a slew of models, a handful of actors and personal trainers, a professional ballerina, and the founders of several companies, including SoulCycle, Sweetgreen, By Chloe, and Refinery29,” wrote Vox’s Gaby Del Valle at the time. “These are real New Yorkers, sure, but they’re not exactly the people I see on the street every day. Maybe that’s the point.”

Will the rise of ads featuring influencers instead of actors make dinosaurs of professionals like Coelius, Rosen, and Parks? Probably not. “It’s pretty rare you’re gonna see somebody on TV that’s not an actor,” says Coelius, laughing. (Those Chevy commercials, however, do indeed appear to be made up of random passersby.)

What is changing is that commercial actors now have to pretend to be even more like real people in the audition room. When advertisers are looking for authenticity, they’ll often begin by asking something like, “Tell us a little bit about yourself” — one of the most dreaded questions in both interviews and auditions. That’s what happened when Coelius went up for a role in a commercial for a national bookstore chain.

“All they’re doing was just looking for the vibe of someone that would best represent their company,” he says. “It was, ‘Would we want this person to work at our store?’”

Being a teacher of commercial acting, however, Coelius was prepared with a concise, relatable story, and walked out with a gig worth $20,000. Though that particular audition question may be annoying, it’s a good time to be an actor who can answer it well.

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Amazon 2-day shipping: Why packages sometimes arrive later

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In less than two decades, Amazon single-handedly transformed the way we think about online shopping. Before Prime launched in 2005, two-day shipping was virtually unheard of — now more than 100 million people use the service, and they expect the things they order online to arrive at their doorsteps in 48 hours or fewer.

There’s just one problem: Amazon, which has focused on obtaining customers at all costs for decades, seems to be looking for ways to cut down on shipping costs. In some cases, that means weaning Prime users off the near-instantaneous shipping they’ve come to expect.

From the beginning, free two-day shipping was Prime’s biggest draw. Memberships were cheap — $79 a year in 2005 and $119 today — and users had the option of paying a small fee to get their orders delivered in just one day. Today, Prime is about much more than package delivery: Users can order everything, from groceries to a house cleaner, through Amazon. But as Amazon has expanded, the promise of free two-day shipping — the main draw of Prime — has begun to come with a lot of caveats.

That’s not to say Amazon is totally changing course. In 2014, Amazon launched Prime Now, a service designed to deliver products in an hour or less, for some New York City-based users. (It expanded to other major cities in 2016.) Amazon often makes headlines for the grueling work expected of its in-house delivery fleet — or, more accurately, the network of contractors that deliver packages to Prime users across the country — a sign that it continues to take its shipping promise seriously, often at the expense of workers. But even as Amazon has doubled down on ensuring speedy delivery, it has begun looking for ways to rein in customers’ desire for instant gratification, a phenomenon it arguably helped create, in an attempt to cut costs and streamline its supply chain.

The result? Prime orders don’t necessarily arrive in two days anymore, nor are they always delivered to customers’ homes. All of this makes sense from a financial perspective, but that may not be enough to win customers over.

Prime customers pay for — and expect — quick, free shipping. They aren’t always happy about Amazon’s cost-cutting efforts.

Two-day Prime shipping isn’t necessarily a thing of the past, but it’s undeniable that Amazon delivery isn’t as seamless as it used to be.

Amazon will no longer deliver some small items, like razors or hair ties, individually. Instead, customers have to purchase $25 worth of these “add-on” items before Amazon will send the box out; the point, according to the company, is to give customers access to “low-cost items that would be cost-prohibitive to ship on their own.” Since 2011, Amazon has given users the option to have packages delivered to “lockers,” which are basically branded PO boxes, instead of to their homes or offices. Most recently, Amazon rolled out Amazon Day, a new delivery option that lets customers choose a specific day for all of their orders to arrive, is the company’s latest cost-cutting effort.

All of this makes sense from a financial perspective. Delivering packages to a single location instead of hundreds of individual homes cuts costs, and requiring customers to meet a delivery minimum for small orders helps Amazon consolidate deliveries, as does the Amazon Day program.

But the response to these new initiatives has been mixed at best.

Last December, Fast Company’s Mark Wilson wrote about how Amazon Prime is “getting worse,” claiming the company had all but abandoned its promise of two-day shipping for most products. “That little Prime logo used to mean something,” Wilson wrote. “Now it feels like a ruse that lulls shoppers into a false sense of security, until they go to checkout and see a shipping arrival date far later than anticipated.”

He continued:

“This cuts through the greatest promise of Prime. It’s not just the free, two-day shipping. It’s that it’s so reliable, you never have to think for more than a second about buying something. In this sense, Prime was constructed to be great for the consumer (so efficient) and great for businesses (mindless impulse shopping!). … It doesn’t help that we’ve seen a slow dilution of Prime itself over time, with the rise of Prime Pantry and Add-on Items. They force you to buy a minimum number of items to get the best deal, adding back the very psychic burden Prime had eliminated from the equation of online shopping in the first place.”

Wilson’s complaints about Prime suggest a bait-and-switch strategy. Amazon got 100 million people to become Prime users by guaranteeing frictionless service, but now that it’s gotten a sizable chunk of the market hooked on quick, free shipping, it’s trying to cut delivery costs by scaling back on the very thing that got customers interested in the first place. Put another way, Prime is built on the idea that shopping should be frictionless; Amazon has now introduced a degree of friction that wasn’t there before, and some customers aren’t happy about it.

https://twitter.com/esirof/status/1075426983104917504

“I can’t help but feel the frustration around how the false sense of shopping confidence is blown when Amazon simply uses the PRIME lockup as a gimmick,” one reader wrote in response to Wilson’s article. “The ‘prime’ benefit of getting your stuff when you expect it is gone, and it’s not just because of the holiday shipping crunch.

Amazon changed customer expectations regarding shipping. Now it’s changing them again.

One of Amazon’s core principles is “customer obsession,” a “vigorous” desire to “earn and keep customer trust.” (Amazon has, by the way, also been known to use customer obsession as an anti-union talking point.) Put simply, customer obsession means giving the customer what they want as cheaply and quickly as possible — e.g., within 48 hours or fewer — at the expense of profits.

Anne Goodchild, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington who focuses on supply chain transportation and logistics, told me that Amazon significantly altered customer expectations and shopping patterns.

“The status quo [has been] that we take ourselves to the store, pick up the goods, and go back to our homes. That’s actually a pretty inefficient way of doing the last mile: We all individually use our cars, and that kind of commuting creates a great travel burden,” she said. “Delivery services, to some extent, have the potential to be an improvement. [They consolidate] a lot of deliveries — hopefully — into one vehicle like a UPS truck. They have strong incentives, profit incentives, to do that in an efficient and cost-effective way.”

The problem, she said, occurs when delivery becomes too quick. “As we move toward faster delivery, it gets harder to consolidate.” The promise of instant delivery means that customers can buy virtually anything they want without thinking about it; they don’t always think to consolidate their purchases into a single order, because there’s no need to. (A 2018 survey by the optimization platform Feedvisor found that 46 percent of Prime members shop online more than twice a week.) “When we’re not paying some sort of personal cost for the trip, I think it’s easy to overlook how much travel we’re adding,” she said.

Other retailers have attempted to compete by offering similarly fast shipping. “After Amazon, we have things like ShopRunner and even Target [now] saying that if you order certain items, you can get two-day shipping,” Ambulkar said. “I don’t see two-day shipping going away. I think there’s definitely more and more businesses adopting it.”

Even as other retailers lower their shipping times to keep up, Amazon appears to be tweaking its two-day shipping promise. Prime may be cheap and easy for customers, but the cost of all those deliveries adds up quickly. Amazon spent $21.7 billion on shipping costs in 2017, according to its annual report. That’s nearly twice the amount it spent on shipping in 2015.

“Amazon has pursued a growth trajectory rather than a profit one,” Goodchild added. “I think everyone would agree that their strategy has been to please customers and, in doing so, grow their market share.”

But now that it has more than 100 million Prime customers, Amazon is looking for ways to make Prime more profitable — which could end up alienating some of the customers it has made an effort to court.

Justin Smith, the founder of TJI Research, an analytics firm that focuses on Amazon, told The Goods that Amazon is looking for ways to make Prime more efficient — and cost-effective. “Lockers or other pickup points, or encouraging customers to ship items in the fewest number of boxes possible, which might mean getting it a bit later than if you had shipped items separately,” are all part of that strategy.

“I also think that because of how big they are, they are able to become smarter about predicting what items people are going to order in different regions,” Smith added, “and I believe they’ve been able to put items in warehouses closer to where they expect people to order them from in order to reduce the distance that items have to be shipped when they’re ordered. If that can be done efficiently, I think you reduce the individual shipping volume as well as decrease the delivery time, which improves the customer experience.”

It’s also better for the environment. Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions in the US, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks — the kinds of freight vehicles that are often filled to the brim with Prime purchases and other online orders — are responsible for nearly one-quarter of the total transportation footprint. These trucks, which used to deliver the bulk of their loads to stores and other retail hubs, are now increasingly dropping packages off to individuals. All those one-off orders add up, both financially and environmentally — but, because this type of delivery is often more convenient for the consumer, this has become the new normal.

Not everyone agrees with the premise that more efficiency will result in greater customer satisfaction. Saurabh Ambulkar, a management professor at Northeastern University, said customers who have come to expect two-day — or even same-day — delivery might not readily accept more optimized, less customer-friendly options. “The whole [promise] was that Amazon can deliver the thing to my house, so why do I need to go to the central locker to get something? Why do I need to go to the store?” he said. “If I have to step out of my house to get something, they lose that competitive advantage that they have, but they have to do some of it [in order to] ease the pressure on the supply chain.”

“In bigger cities, maybe the central locker is closer to the place you work, but in other places, I think delivering to residents is what made Amazon more competitive than other players in the market,” Ambulkar added. “If I have to go to a central locker, I can just go to the store to get that product.”

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A Man From a Remote African Village Has Been Named Best Teacher and Will Get $1,000,000 for It

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When talking about the job of a teacher, many people refer to it as “a calling”. We all want our children to be educated by teachers who love their jobs and who make children feel inspired, interested, and motivated. There are 2 opinions when it comes to teachers: “A talented person will be successful, no matter what,” and “A talented person needs a good teacher.”

A charity foundation that was set up in 2015 by a businessman named Sunny Varkey (and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, his patron) awards someone as “Best Teacher” every year with a Global Teacher Prize.

Bright Side was really interested in the winner of the 2019 competition because there were 10,000 applications from 179 countries, with a prize of $1,000,000.

Teachers from India, Australia, the US, Kenya, the Netherlands, Brazil, Japan, Argentina, Great Britain, and Georgia made it to the final stage of the competition.

A Kenyan science teacher and Franciscan friar named Peter Tabichi won the award. The award ceremony took place in Dubai and the name of the winner was announced by actor Hugh Jackman.

Peter Tabichi is a teacher in a small African village where the inhabitants often don’t have enough of the most necessary things. Despite this, his students are famous for their wins in international science competitions which is what ultimately attracted the foundation’s attention.

The school these students go to doesn’t look like a school that houses major victories. There is only 1 teacher for 58 students and 1 computer, and in order to make it to lessons, many kids have to cover huge distances on washed-out roads during the rainy season. Most of Tabichi’s students are kids from poor families or they’re orphans. The school is sorely lacking financial support, so Peter donates 80% of the money he makes on the development of the school — the school uniforms, textbooks, and other materials.

7 years ago, he used to teach at a private school but then decided to become a Franciscan friar and leave his job. The code he lives by requires him to have a somewhat ascetic lifestyle and help others. This is why teaching at a poor school is considered charity for Tabichi.

“This win does not belong to me: it demonstrates the achievements of young minds. I am here only thanks to my students’ achievements. A victory gives them a chance. It means that there are no borders for them.”

Tabichi explains how he uses different motivation methods with his students because the secret to success is believing in yourself. Every person can find something they like doing and feel confident. Peter teaches kids to look at things from different perspectives. This is why his projects where students can organize processes and analyze results by themselves are very popular.

The teacher doesn’t say that some of these projects are “cool” and others are “not cool”. The most important thing about them is that the students have to use their imaginations and have to look for new solutions. Tabichi says, “Creativity is extremely important, especially in difficult situations when the resources are limited.”

In this school, there are scientific and creative clubs where every student can showcase their achievements.

“Seeing my learners grow in knowledge, skills, and confidence is my greatest joy in teaching! When they become resilient, creative, and productive in the society, I get a lot of satisfaction for I act as their greatest destiny enabler and key that unlocks their potential in the most exciting manner.”

Tabichi also managed to talk about tolerance: “He created the ’Peace Club’ where there are people of 7 different nationalities and religious beliefs who all visit this school.

People are most interested in one big question: What is he going to spend his prize money on?

His answer? First and foremost, on computer science class, the development of the science lab, and new projects that can improve people’s lives. For example, Peter wants to teach his students to grow drought-tolerant crops. This project is absolutely necessary for life in Africa.

Interestingly, the agreement terms of the foundation say that the winner has certain responsibilities and the prize is not given to the winner right away.

For 10 years, the winner gets $100,000 every year and they have to stay in the profession for 5 years and be a global ambassador for The Varkey Foundation. It means that they have to visit certain events, talk to the media, and participate in training.

We’re deeply impressed by such people! Their stories are bright illustrations of what we call “the purpose of life”. What do you think about this award?

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Digital Trends Live – 4.15.19 – All Digital XBox + An App That Gives You Stock For Shopping

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On today’s episode: The discless Xbox may be the worst kept secret and it’s coming next month, Apple is spending big on its Arcade offering, A.I. invents a new sport, Gixo fitness app goes live in a world of VOD offerings, Bumped is a loyalty app that gives you stock for shopping with your favorite brands, Stratolaunch makes maiden voyage, Pepsi may become the most hated brand in the world with upcoming space billboard, Freelancer teems with Arrow Electronics to provide on-demand engineering services.

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