When you reach the A-list, it’s a rite of passage that big-name brands will come knocking, with countless celebs appearing in ads for high fashion labels, expensive cars and other luxury products.
But what you might not realise is just how many household names got their start in the entertainment industry by appearing in ads.
From washing powder, crisps and breakfast cereal to fizzy drinks and even haemorrhoid cream, here are 20 ads you didn’t realise starred some of your favourite stars before they made it big…
What’s he flogging? Boots (the chemist, not the footwear)
Just a couple of years before landing his breakthrough role in Doctor Who, David Tennant was playing an aloof boyfriend in a string of Christmas ads for Boots. As a teenager, he also appeared in an anti-smoking PSA that was shown on TV across Scotland.
What’s she flogging? British Gas
The future Girls Aloud star was just seven years old when she and her brother Garry were selected to appear in this ad for British Gas.
What’s she flogging? The AA
It felt like this somewhat grating advert – also featuring Grange Hill’s Mark Burdis – was absolutely everywhere in the early 2000s. What we’d never have expected was that the woman annoying us with those repetitive calls of “Bev!” and “Kev!” would one day be an Oscar winner and all-round national treasure. In other words, there’s still time for the Go Compare man.
What’s she flogging? Tampax
Long before the world knew her as Monica from Friends, Courteney Cox was “telling it to us straight” in this ad for Tampax tampons. She’s also credited as being the first person to say the word “period” on American TV thanks to this commercial.
What’s he flogging? Orange Tango
This – it has to be said, extremely stressful – advert was actually banned after two weeks on the air over claims it encouraged bullying. Two years later, James would land his all-important role in Fat Friends, where he’d meet future Gavin & Stacey co-writer Ruth Jones (as well as co-stars Alison Steadman and Sheridan Smith).
What’s she flogging? The X Factor
Having just turned 18 years old, then-aspiring singer Dua Lipa was called on to play an auditionee for Gary Barlow, Nicole Scherzinger, Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne in a teaser clip for The X Factor. It would be a few years before the singer would eventually top the UK charts – without the aid of a singing contest.
What’s she flogging? Pretty Polly bras
Holly was one of several models chosen to appear in this very racy campaign for Pretty Polly in the late 1990s. Her next job would be presenting kids’ TV on CITV, before the likes of Dancing On Ice, Celebrity Juice and, of course, This Morning came her way.
What’s he flogging? Daz washing detergent
You might remember Daz’s ongoing Cleaner Close ad campaign, which centred around a fictional soap, but what you might not realise is that Bridesmaids star Chris O’Dowd was at the centre of the first few instalments. Later ads included Alison King, who would go on to achieve success in Coronation Street.
What’s she flogging? Subway
Putting her eventual Oscar-winning skills to good use in this sandwich advert, Octavia can be seen in action as a “lunch lady” in an extremely humdrum school cafeteria.
What’s she flogging? MTV’s My Super Sweet 16
J-Law actually gave this ad a shout-out when she won a Screen Actors’ Guild Award in 2010. “I earned my SAG card when I was 14,” she told her fellow celebs in attendance.
“I did an MTV promo for My Super Sweet 16. And I remember getting it in the mail and it being the best day of my entire life, because it officially made me a professional actor.”
What’s the ad? An anti-tobacco PSA
Anyone who’s seen Jordan Peele’s horror films knows he loves a good societal parable – and in the 90s, his cause celebre was apparently the tobacco industry. He appeared in this PSA when he was 16 years old, at one point sitting backwards in his chair to let us know he was truly no square.
What’s she flogging? Sugar Puffs
Kate Winslet was proving her acting versatility even as a child actor in this deeply unsettling Sugar Puffs ad, that saw her transforming from an innocent 11-year-old into the (terrifying) Honey Monster.
What’s he flogging? Bubble Yum gum
Truly a masterclass in late 1980s visuals, this fast-paced ad sees a teenage Leo popping on some gum before “blasting” some tunes on his “boombox”.
What’s he flogging? Kelloggs’ Fruit ‘n’ Fibre
Not only did Ross Kemp don his best golfing gear when he starred in this cereal advert in the early 90s, he also served us an actual musical number. Who knew Grant Mitchell had it in him, eh?
What’s he flogging? Coca Cola
And speaking of EastEnders “hard men” and ads, here’s Danny Dyer trying to sell us all Coca Cola. It’s comforting to know that even if he does look 25 years younger, Danny Dyer’s unmistakable voice has always been exactly the same.
What’s she flogging? Rennie heartburn tablets
While we’re raiding the EastEnders vault, who’s ready for a very glamorous pre-Kathy Beale Gillian Taylforth downing some Rennies so she can enjoy the last night of her holiday romance?
Year: Early 1980s
What’s he flogging? Preparation H haemorrhoid cream
Meanwhile, across the pond at around the same time as Gillian Taylforth and her Rennies, future four-time Emmy-winning star Bryan Cranston was telling America all about the bonuses of Preparation H.
What’s he flogging? Pringles
If ever you needed proof that Brad Pitt has always been a dreamboat, check out this sun-soaked Pringles ad from the 80s.
What’s he flogging? Fruice
Similarly, here’s Aidan Turner getting his kit off to help flog the imaginatively-named fruit juice Fruice.
What’s he flogging? Listerine
The man whose credits would include playing Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X and, oh yeah, God, also portrayed a construction worker in this Listerine ad. Also – that’s an interesting approach to advertising from the mouthwash brand, boasting “the taste that people hate”.