HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED
Today we'll discuss how to research a company for a commercial audition or booking. If you've been wondering how to audition for a commercial, then what you really need to know is how to research the company before you ever enter the casting office.
My very first professional booking through my talent agent was for the car company Audi. During the shoot, they randomly asked us to improv lines and "just talk about whatever."
I asked my scene partner/fake husband something about work, to which the director replied, "No not that. Don't talk about that," which was a note from the client because the commercial featured a couple taking a break from life to go all-roading in their new car.
It dawned on me that I needed to know the topics that were important to their brand, and more specifically, important to their customer because that's who I was representing in the shoot.
The more you can represent a company's target customer, the more likely a brand is to work with you again. I recently worked on a commercial for a new product launch. When I read the script, I laughed out loud and told my husband, "I am this woman. I literally say some of these things."
I mentioned this to the director in a chat before the shoot, and he said, "Well, that's good because you're really going to be the face of the brand." This time, I was able to improv lines at the shoot that had everyone, including the client, rolling with laughter because they were just so dang accurate.
I understand that I need to wait and see how the market responds to the commercials before I assume that I'm actually going to see a long-term contract, but if their target market feels like I'm super relatable to them, then it drastically increases my chances of becoming a spokesperson for that company.
The same is true for you. If you can understand and portray a company's target market so precisely that they love you, then you could be looking at a seriously nice contract.
You also need to understand that the client (company) is on set during a commercial shoot watching you on a monitor in the other room, so if they see that you're representing their top paying customers well, they'll fall in love with you, too. That means the top dog paying all of the paychecks will request you.
In this post, I'll teach you five ways to research commercial roles so you can greatly increase your chances of booking and representing the target market well during the actual shoot.
The secret of how to nail a commercial audition is to be the company's target market. These research techniques will help you even if you don't think that you are the company's ideal customer. However, I still highly recommend that you work with companies that complement your personal brand.
1. USE SOCIAL MEDIA
This is the primary way I want you to research. It's almost a guarantee that the company on the shoot has a social media presence. They may not if they're a new company, but you'll more than likely find "teaser" posts for their launch somewhere online.
I want you to first research the company's social media platforms. Each platform has a different research purpose. If you can't find a company on one of these platforms, no worries. The fact that they're not on a particular platform also gives you insight into their target customer.
For example, I tried to research the wife role for a John Deere commercial. Guess which platform they weren't using? Pinterest! Why? Because their target market (male farmers) doesn't use Pinterest. However, that's the very first platform I want you to check, so let's discuss why.
Side note: make sure you sign out of your social media accounts before you start researching so that your platforms don't start showing you ads for that company (unless you want them to).
Pinterest is the place to go when you want to pin ideas that interest you. Typically, tutorials or how to pins do really well. It is actually a search engine more than a social media platform. That means companies will create pin boards based on their brand and customer interests.
Read the titles of the company's Pinterest boards. Those titles will give you lots of info about the likes of the person you're representing. That way you're covered if you ever need to improv any lines during a shoot.
Let's say I have an audition for the company Bojangles. I Google "Bojangles Pinterest." (You should Google the company name + social platform so that you can access their social pages without signing into your accounts.)
Once I'm on their Pinterest profile, I notice one of their boards is titled Bojangles Southern 500. When I click on that board, the description mentions that it's their favorite race weekend, so now I know their customers probably like racing.
I can also see that one of their boards is titled Long Live the Tailgate. When I open the board, the description mentions tailgating recipes and recipes to complement one of their menu items. This lets me know their customers probably like tailgating and football, plus which product the company promotes specifically for tailgating.
Lastly, one of the boards is titled Summer of Tea. When I open the board, the description says they declared 2016 the summer of tea. That lets me know that this promotion and phrase is outdated, but could be a good reference back to a memorable part of their brand. For example, I could improv the line, "Hey, remember when we played frisbee during the summer of tea?"
Why frisbee? Because one of the photos features a Bojangles legendary iced tea frisbee. This lets the client know that I'm paying attention to their brand and their market. You wanna know how many other actors are making references that specific? Probably none, but I want you to stand out from the crowd, Actor Boss!
If the company is global, you'll need to search for "(Company Name) USA" because the customer interests will may from market to market. You should still look through the various country profiles, though, to see if there are common themes regardless of location.
Facebook started putting a major emphasis on engagement, and they also acquired Instagram. That means engagement is king on both platforms, which will be the focus of your research.
Look at the comments a company's followers leave on their posts. You'll be able to pickup on similar language, common phrases, or what excites their customers the most.
Let's look at how I would research an audition for Starbucks. Initially, I look through their posts to see which topics are important to the brand. It's clear that they spotlight seasonal drinks, Fairtrade coffee farming, and their college tuition program.
Now I need to check the comments on each of these posts to see how their audience responds to these topics. At the time of this post, fall drinks are all the rage. That means I should definitely know something about those seasonal drinks, especially if the commercial features one of them.
Next, I see a post about one of their coffee farmers. However, reading through the comments teaches me that they're actually discontinuing the coffee line from that country, so I should probably steer clear of mentioning it. I also need to research which countries they currently source from, such as the one featured in this post.
Lastly, they are proud to support college education for their employees. I can see in the comments that current employees are praising the program as well. That means I should probably research the college they partner with, plus how the program works.
Even if I don't use this information to improv lines, it will be really good to know in case the client asks me questions about the company at a callback.
You may also see complaints or negative feedback, but I want you to be careful with these. For starters, make sure the feedback is actually constructive before you consider it. Otherwise, it may be a troll just looking to have a laugh.
Additionally, you never want to steer the conversation in a negative direction on a commercial. Even if you do see feedback that's constructive, only utilize that research to know which topics to stay away from.
The number of shares a post gets is also important. Which posts are getting the most shares? Shares are the highest value of social engagement because someone is showing it to their audience. Typically, people only share if the content makes them look good to their followers.
YouTube is all about video, so do this research when you have time to watch a few. Even though YouTube allows comments, I want you to research using the videos themselves.
Check a company's YouTube videos to see which ones have gone viral, the overall style of their commercials (including the acting), and to look for user generated content.
If a video has gone viral, that means their customer base knows about it and is probably talking about it. The style of the commercials will help you understand if their productions are laid back or super polished (i.e. audition outfit and hair). User generated content will actually let you see and hear their customers!
Let's look at how I would research an audition for BMW. At the time I'm writing this post, BMW's featured video has gone viral. It's a narrative video called The Small Escape about how a BMW helped nine people escape to West Berlin in 1964. It currently has over 5.4 million views. Update: it jumped one million views since yesterday (see pic). Their customers are definitely talking about this video.
Next, I need to look through their playlists. These videos mainly spotlight their vehicle models. The look, tone, and feel of these videos is very sleek and luxurious. That means I don't need to show up in camping gear like I'm auditioning for a Subaru commercial. The talent featured in their videos include a woman who is British and a man dressed in a suit.
Lastly, I search for "BMW review" to find user generated content. Remember to use positive information, not negative. During this search, I find a number of videos from actual owners (not businesses), and I see a video titled BMW Customer and Staff Testimonial Compilation. Now I can see and hear actual customers, and gain some knowledge about the cars. Since I don't personally own a BMW, I need to know what words their customers use to describe their vehicles.
That's it for your social media research. It really won't take you that long once you start doing it, but I have four more research ideas for you before we finish.
2. ASK THE DIRECTOR
You won't always have the opportunity to chat with the director before a shoot. It really depends on their personality and availability. I do not suggest that you ever request a chat unless you're an A-lister.
If you're offered the opportunity, then chat with the director or artistic director before the shoot. They'll have a list of notes about the client's interests and vision. Remember, the client (company) is who everyone wants to make happy.
Take notes during your social media research, and ask the director if your interpretation of the ideal client is correct. You should also ask if there are any topics they would like you to stay away from. That question would've saved me big time on the Audi shoot!
3. TALK WITH FRIENDS OR FAMILY
You won't be the ideal client for most of your commercial auditions. What if you've never tried the featured product or interacted with the company? Don't sweat! Do you know someone who has?
If you're not the company's target market, then talk to your friends or family members that are their ideal customer. Ask them how they feel about the company or product (as long as the product isn't new or you're not violating an NDA!).
Watch them gush. Listen to the words they use. Ask them to tell you why they purchase from that company.
4. BECOME A CUSTOMER
I had an audition for a fast food restaurant once, but I'd never eaten their food. You typically don't eat food in an audition, but something in the audition notes made me think I would be asked about the featured menu item.
That morning, I purchased and tried the menu item. Sure enough, the casting director asked us questions about the food for the audition. How do you think that would've gone if I'd replied, "I don't know. I've never eaten it"?
The best way for you to learn about a company and their customers is to become a customer yourself.
If you're unwilling to eat a company's food, especially because of food sensitivities, then you probably need to decline the audition. Things change on set all of the time, so you may get unexpectedly asked to take a bite outta something.
What if you're doing an audition for an expensive product, like a car? Go to the dealership and let them know that you have an audition, so you want the customer experience to see what it's like. Just don't share any information about the script or audition. If people ask me, I simply smile and reply, "I'm not allowed to say until it's released."
5. LOOK AT THE COMPANY'S WEBSITE
This tactic always proves valuable, regardless of what job you want with a company. Companies spend thousands of hours and dollars building their brands, which means their brands and interests are very important to them! Let them see that you understand that.
Research these areas of a company's website, and find ways to personally connect to their:
You want to have a solid answer for the question, "Why should we book you for this role? Why do you want to represent our company?" Now, I've never been asked that question, but you better believe I'm always ready with an answer that has nothing to do with my career. Be ready to talk about them or tell a story from your life that relates to their company in some way.
Comment below let me know if you have any other ways to research that have worked out for you. If you've had any similar situations on set, share how you handled that.
Go back and research the social media platforms of any brands you've auditioned for to test your research skills. What topics could you use based on what you find?
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HEY ACTOR BOSS,
I'm a screen actor and certified goals coach focused on helping other screen actors that are not yet a household name achieve their most urgent goal.