If you’ve watched clips on YouTube recently you’ve probably seen pre-roll commercials for Buick starring Ellie Kemper. Most of the spots involve her acting like the car is her co-star on the set, with her acting very deferential toward it and talking to it as if it can hear her and has it’s own personality.

They’re funny spots, buoyed largely by Kemper’s substantial charm. But I was wondering what it was that prompted her to do these commercials? The campaign hit at the same time “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was returning for a second series on Netflix, so her stock was pretty high.

Then, somewhere around the 42nd time I saw one of those ads it occurred to me that it’s all content. I started thinking about the story last month in Wired with the cast of “Silicon Valley” where they talked about how it’s all a constant hustle for them, starring on their own show, guest-starring on other shows, doing movies, hosting podcasts, engaging on Twitter and more. It all builds up into something that is designed to keep their names and faces out there, with each gig helping to support whatever comes next.

That reality seems to have taken the stigma out of doing commercials or other projects that aren’t “pure” art for a generation of creative types. It’s all part of building their (forgive me, 6-pound, 8-ounce Baby Jesus for saying this) personal brand that can live across media. Part of that seems to have come from a change in the approach of those ads to allow more of the personality of these comedians and other actors to come through. So that’s very much Kemper on display in the Buick spots, the same person who’s on “Kimmy Schmidt” and other shows and movies.


By necessity that means there needs to be room in the advertising for two brands: That of the product being sold and that of the person doing the selling. That’s a big shift for advertisers to consider, but they’re counting on the trade-off – that the public will connect with someone who they’re already enjoying and draw a line between that and the brand or product the commercial is actually for.

That’s the thing: The advertiser may think that what’s being sold is a car, or a phone or a cable service or whatever and they’re not wrong. But what’s also being sold is the comedian or actor’s career, which is equally on display. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, with each party getting something valuable from the other, whether it’s an implied endorsement or another content opportunity to get their face and personality out there.