These Aussie celebrities are big-name players in the entertainment industry now, but once upon a time they were simply dropping slogans in TV ads.
Yes, before Hollywood and the Oscars came calling, these stars paid their dues on the TV commercials circuit, appearing in ads from chocolate biscuits to soft drinks.
Here are five stars who got their start in these memorable advertising campaigns.
Before she won two Oscars, Cate Blanchett was making three wishes to a genie in a ’90s commercial about chocolate biscuits.
The aspiring actress starred in the catchy Tim Tam ad, in which she stumbled upon a lamp and a genie, who granted her three wishes. Her wish? “A packet of Tim Tams that never runs out.”
When asked what she desires for her remaining two wishes, the actress’ friend says, “Then we’ll have two more of those.” Cut to the tagline: “Arnotts Tim Tams — what more could you want?” and we’re sure most Aussies share the same sentiment.
Naomi Watts captured the attention of a Hollywood star before she even stepped foot in the glitzy town.
In this memorable commercial for Lamb Roast in 1989, the fresh-faced wannabe actress wins a radio competition to have dinner with the one and only Tom Cruise. The only problem was the date fell on a family dinner night.
“I’m sorry, I can’t. Mum’s doing a lamb roast,” Watts told the radio host before the ad ends on the tagline: “Nothing comes before a roast lamb dinner.”
Watts — who is now a two-time Oscar nominee with 91 acting credits — reflected on the ad during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2016.
“I think I was a vegetarian at the time. It makes no sense,” she told the audience. She also revealed Cruise — who was once married to her bestie Nicole Kidman — knew about the commercial.
“Does he know about this?” Kimmel asked, to which Watts confirmed, “He does.”
But Russel Howcroft, the Chair of Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), partner of Sayers Group and 3AW breakfast broadcaster, says sometimes it’s not a good idea to use a celebrity face — or in this case, name-drop Tom Cruise.
“Not all ads should have a celebrity, however celebrity does help in selling products and selling brands,” Howcroft tells 9Honey Celebrity. “It helps because viewers are far more likely to be interested in the celebrity than the product that they’re advertising. As a result, the products or brands sort of piggyback on the fame.”
Starring in Tourism Australia’s ad campaign in 1983 put Paul Hogan on the map.
The ad, in which the actor told would-be visitors he’d put a “shrimp on the barbie” for them, was specifically designed to attract US tourists Down Under — and it achieved just that. These days, the iconic “I’ll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you” remains synonymous with Aussie culture for Americans.
“The great thing about the Paul Hogan campaign was that it was actually a breakthrough in tourism advertising,” Howcroft says.
“Because tourism advertising tended to just show the assets, whether it’s Australia or other parts of the world — it would say here’s a beach, here’s a castle, here’s a luxury restaurant… But the Paul Hogan campaign was a breakthrough in that it provided the personality of Australians.
“What was very important was the commercial success of that campaign. Australia as a destination that Americans would want to visit went from number 70 on their list of countries to number seven.”
Hogan also became in demand in the US after the commercial and its subsequent sequels aired, scoring him a starring role in the 1986 film Crocodile Dundee.
“Off the back of the fame that the tourism ads created for Paul Hogan, he was able to enter the film market with Crocodile Dundee,” Howcroft says.
While Paul Hogan’s Tourism Australia ad proved a success — it only cost a reported $15 million to make and garnered 70,000 inquiries from Americans about holidaying in Australia — a similar commercial starring Lara Bingle in 2006 was not as well received.
Although it kickstarted the young Aussie’s modelling career, the ad was so controversial, it was deemed too risqué and banned in the UK, while also being rewritten in Asia. The commercial reportedly cost $180 million to make but it did not resonate as well with tourists as Hogan’s ’80s offering.
“Paul Hogan told a story about Australia, whereas ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’ was beautifully made, but in the end it was too crass for the sale,” Howcroft says.
“The Paul Hogan campaign was actually very sophisticated in that it was beautifully made with brilliant copywriting. The Lara Bingle ad sort of lacked that sophistication.”
A quintessential Aussie bloke in a quintessential Aussie ad. Russell Crowe was perfectly cast in this one for Coca Cola.
In the 1987 commercial, the would-be actor sits in the Aussie outback in Uluru as he and a friend dream of winning a surfing competition taking place at Manly Beach in Sydney.
“Catching waves like you catch flies,” his mate tells him in the clip.
These days, Crowe doesn’t have to dream about making it big in Sydney. The Oscar winner is not only the toast of the town, but he’s also a Hollywood favourite.
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