CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/ACTORS IN ADS - Does it matter if the same actor appears in different ads? Jenny Watts reports

You don't think you know the actor Henry Miller, but you're almost

certainly wrong. If you've a keen eye for ads, then you're probably very

familiar with Miller's work. In fact, for the past few weeks it's been

hard to avoid him.



Recently, Miller has graced our screens in three different

campaigns.



He's the bagel-orderer in Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's Yellow Pages spot,

the Ibiza-loving lad who feigns the loss of his passport in J. Walter

Thompson's Smirnoff Ice campaign, and he is also in St Luke's COI

Communications literacy gremlins work. So what is it about his face that

endears him to so many agencies?



Jeanette Scott, the agent at Crouch Associates, who represents Miller,

says: "There's a slight charming vulnerability about Henry, and people

like that. He always looks like he could have the same failings as the

rest of us."



He also possesses a crucial skill among actors - the ability to get on

with everyone. "Whenever he goes to the castings he charms them," Scott

says. "They want people to buy their product, and people trust him."



Adrian Harrison, the managing director of RSA Films, explains that many

actors are chosen for this very reason: "The successful ones are usually

very good in casting performances - they know how to present themselves

to the director better than anyone else."



Amanda Tabak, a casting director at Candid Casting, believes some actors

may not be the best in the business, but that doesn't matter. "The ones

who are repeatedly used in ads are consumer friendly - they have a

certain warmth and approachability that members of the public can relate

to," she says.



But isn't a recurring face detrimental to autonomous advertisers?

Harrison thinks not. "Each ad is such a one-off," he says - a view

echoed by Miller himself.



"They pay a certain amount of attention to the fact you're on air

simultaneously," Miller says, adding that it has never been a hindrance

for him.



To prevent any conflict problems from the outset, an actor is obliged to

fill out a casting declaration form of ads done in the past three

years.



So, theoretically, agency producers go into the process with their eyes

open. It seems, however, that some actors can be economical with the

truth.



"You're relying on them to tell you what they've done," Sue Lee-Stern,

the head of TV at Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, says.



And while some might argue that seeing an increasingly familiar face

could confuse brand association, and weaken effectiveness, it seems that

some agencies don't mind when actors have been in other ads - especially

if the part they've played has not been significant.



"Most of the time it's pure coincidence that they appear three at a

time," Harrison says.



Whether it's by fluke or design, it seems clear that agencies don't mind

their performers spending airtime on other products - provided they're

not direct competitors. And until Miller breaks into a TV sitcom, and

becomes too loaded with associations for advertisers to stomach, we can

look forward to him lighting up our ad breaks for a while to come.



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