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When auditioning for a commercial most of the same rules apply as a for film or TV casting.
1) Make specific choices, and make sure you answer the “W” questions. These are the basic Stanislavski acting questions and yes, they apply to commercials.
Who am I?
Where am I?
Who am I talking to?
What do I want?
Know the answer to these questions so that you’re not acting in a vacuum.
The main difference between a commercial and film casting is that the ultimate goal in a film is to keep the audience watching, while in a commercial it is to sell a product.
2.) Therefore, know the product that you’re selling, and the specific ad campaign. For example: Product: Federal Express. Slogan: “It’s not just a package. It’s your business.” You may not be able to do a lot of preparation in advance, but at the very least know this before you walk in the door, or ask your agent to find out.
3) Know your type. A lot of casting, regardless of genre, is about archetypes. In commercials, this is even more so the case. When you market yourself for a commercial, make sure you have identified the type that you can play well. I once ran into an actor friend of mine on the street, and he was dressed untypically in a bowtie, an argyle sweater, and a bookish pair of spectacles. When I asked him about his kit, he sheepishly answered that it was his “commercials costume”. Even though it’s not who he is in life, he and his agent know that those are the roles that he plays convincingly. So he markets himself that way and dresses the part. You may even have a separate headshot for commercials only. Commercial headshots tend to show a toothy smile; that’s what sells the conflakes.
4.) Lastly, Be open to play. Improvisation is a useful skill in commercial auditions. Commercial directors are less likely to be married to a script. It’s not Shakespeare afterall. When you walk into a commercial casting, there will be scores people in the room, balancing laptops and a cups of Starbucks. You won’t even know who the heck they are, but some will be copywriters, some from the ad agency, others from the product etc. They’ll be constantly revising the script and ideas for selling the product so the director may ask you to just take an idea and run with it. Don’t be afraid to go really far, and most of all have fun!