How Advertisers End Up With ‘That Guy’


Every so often, advertisers all look at one actor and decide he or she is the one that captures a mixture of the here-and-now and the particular product the ad will promote. This makes for an odd perfect storm of advertising for viewers, who all see one person playing different roles across different brand platforms.

Currently, that guy is named R.J. Kelly III and you may have seen him recently about how this happens and if the phenomenon is good or bad for brands.[more]

Kelly is probably best known for his role as the anthropomorphized “small print” in the quite funny ads for Ally Bank.(above)

He can also be currently seen in a Trident Layers ad as the absurd family man who excitedly reports to his household that he got a raise… in gum! (below)

Finally, home improvement retailer Lowe’s recently began using Kelly as the male side of a husband-and-wife team seeking assistance with their do-it-yourself home painting project. (We can’t find that Lowe’s commercial online, but it’s clear we’re not the only ones to get a chuckle out of this coincidence.)

We tracked down Mr. Kelly to ask him what it’s like to be the pitch man of the hour and how exactly that happens.

Kelly told us that is all began with a MLB ’06 campaign he shot for a director named Hank Perlman. Perlman was impressed with Kelly’s improv and sense of humor and said he’d love to work with him again. Kelly says, “I had been told that before and not been called. You know how this business can be.”

But Perlman did call. And he keeps calling. Kelly says that his recent bum-rush of the airwaves is thanks to Perlman, who directed the Trident, Ally and Lowe’s spots. Of the role for which he is most admired,  he smarmy Ally contract jerk, Kelly says he’s not worried about being typecast as a jerk and that he would “love to do more.”

Kelly says he’s not at all worried about overexposure, noting that, like so many, he has “a family to feed.” But he adds, “If my agent said not to do a job, i would listen.”

What Kelly is experiencing is by no means infrequent. Last year, one “that guy” was the All State Bergwood Fiber One bearded dude. (below).

This advertiser duplication happens in more than just actors though. Both CBS News and Visa identify themselves by Morgan Freeman’s voice. Moreover, the current holiday season sees two brands using the Vampire Weekend song, Holiday. (below)

While the director may love Kelly, and Kelly may love the work, do audiences enjoy seeing the same face (or song) in different advertisements? It could be argued this coincidence causes brand confusion. Then again, if viewers are a fan of the actor, as many seem to be of Kelly, does this overlap create some kind of exposure multiplication, where the whole is greater than each individual ad?


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