Julia Roberts’ $1.5 Mil. Commercial: Does Star Power Rest w/ Advertisers?

Gone are the days when a celebrity’s name would be enough to coax legions of movie fans into the theater, the days when a big-time star could demand astronomical paychecks for their studio productions. We’re in a time when ‘The Hangover’ trumps ‘Pelham 1 2 3.’ Actors’ profitability has been questioned, and the A-List is said to hover on the edge of extinction.

But whatever winds pick up or die when it comes to cinema, there are always commercials. For years now, we’ve been treated to star-studded advertisements stateside and overseas, with actors adding to their bankrolls by shilling for random companies. Star power hasn’t yet diminished in the commercials world, and celebrities are still pulling in the big bucks — even if they don’t have to say a word.


The Daily Mail claims that for the above commercial, Julia Roberts earned 1.2 million euros ($1.5 million) to stand there as Boticelli’s Venus, say nothing and smile after drinking Lavazza’s A Modo Mio coffee, while Italian entertainers Paolo Bonolis and Luca Laurenti chatter around her. That roughly boils down to $33,000 a second.

If Julia, whose star power isn’t what it once was, can command that much pay for a quick, silent job, one has to wonder if commercials will become a more prevalent source of celebrity income. As cinematic paychecks stay moderate, it’s hard to refuse the opportunity to spend a day or two standing around, and get paid over a million bucks for the easy, breezy work.

Alternatively, if stars’ names and faces can’t bring people into the movie theater seats, it stands to reason that they might not have the commercial clout advertisers hope. Businessweek has already discussed how the high-priced celebs are a "risky" proposition: "they’re spending a lot of money for the borrowed equity of a talking head. It may be flattering for corporate leaders to rub elbows with celebrities, but unless there is a natural strategic tie it’s not much more than an expensive date."

For now, advertisers don’t seem to mind potentially overpaying for their date, especially when reports say that George Clooney’s commercial dalliances with Nespresso earned the company a 35.5% increase in sales in the UK. But that must be because it’s so good even a heavenly John Malkovich will offer a second chance at life for the machine.

By Monika Bartyzel