Fifteen years ago US television viewers were introduced to this little Cockney reptile…
The campaign must have been fairly successful because the Geico Gecko still pops up in the insurance company’s commercials from time to time. Never mind the fact many Americans thought he was supposed to be Australian, people seemed to like the concept despite not recognizing the accent.
Since that time more and more British accents have been showing up in our commercials, now in the form of actual celebrities. While I’m happy about this trend, it surprises me to some extent because whenever I mention British actors in conversation, I still get an excessive number of blank looks from my non-Anglophile friends. Considering that the singular goal of advertisers is to flog their wares to the most customers possible, using talent unknown to the buying public seems counterproductive.
Therefore I must extrapolate from this current advertising strategy that despite the relative unfamiliarity my social circle seems to have with British celebrities, they must have increasingly begun to enter the general public’s consciousness. Either that or these personalities work for much than their Yankee counterparts.
Here is the most recent and, in my opinion, baffling “star” to appear in an American advert…
Everyone I know is sick of the Kitchen Nightmares’ marathons aired on BBC America literally everyday. Seeing Gordon Ramsay hawking plans for smart phones makes me want to not switch to AT&T. Truth be told they’ve stripped him of his greatest asset, his swearing rants. Without the bleeping, he really isn’t interesting at all.
Not long ago internationally acclaimed and Oscar-nominated English actor Gary Oldman appeared in this promotion for, you guessed it, a smart phone, though he really doesn’t do much to convince viewers to buy it. Mr. Oldman is well known in the States and we’ve seen a lot of him recently in films such as Robocop, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the Dark Knight series (all three in which he plays an American). Who knows? Maybe this isn’t his native accent either.
David Beckham represented Burger King’s new line of fruit smoothies capitalizing on his physical appearance rather than his athletic abilities or career as a footballer, which would have just confused most Americans at that point. You see it wasn’t until the 2014 World Cup that football (as the rest of the world knows it) was covered by the media in any significant way.
Could Ann Coulter of the black mini-cocktail dress find even a modicum of moral decay in an advertisement like that? Probably.
A couple of years ago comedian John Cleese endorsed American satellite provider Direct TV in this delightfully silly commercial that made him out to be some sort of eccentric English gentleman, a stereotype American audiences still embrace.
And speaking of stereotypes, Jaguar poked fun at our tendency to see Brits as villains. This ad was premiered during the 2014 Superbowl, the most coveted and expensive advertising slots on US television. While many will know Sir Ben Kingsley, I doubt Mark Strong and Tom Hiddleston are household names in the US quite yet.
Perhaps the best proof that America is truly in the midst of a British invasion is the Scott lawn care company’s newest campaign. They now have a Scot named Scott (Phil McKee) as their spokesman, a bold move since Scottish dialects are often more incomprehensible to American ears than English ones are…
So what can we conclude from this hodgepodge of commercials and what they say about America’s growing appetite for British culture? At least the way the advertising execs and their focus groups see it, Brits can sell us luxury cars, products in the personal technology market and pseudo-healthy fruit beverages as long as they either reinforce the cliches we foster about them, support soccer mom fantasies or have a national identity that is similar to the name of the company they are endorsing.
Oh and apparently you have to be man. The only British woman I can think of in any recent ad is a silent Keira Knightly.
What commercials have I forgotten? Feel free to share links to any clips you find. I’d also be interested to know how often American celebs appear in UK adverts? Comment early and often!