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Here’s How Much Commercial Actors Get Paid


Here's how much a commercial actor gets paid.

Commercial acting is a world where a 30-second slot on television can turn an unknown face into a familiar one overnight. As brands vie for attention in a saturated market, the role of a commercial actor becomes indispensable in leaving a lasting impression on . But beyond the glitz and the occasional virality these actors achieve, an underlying question often lingers: How much do these actors earn? In an where paychecks can vary as much as the brands themselves, understanding the financial landscape of commercial acting is both intriguing and essential. In this article, we'll pull back the curtain and delve into the world of commercial actors, demystifying their earning potential and the variables that play a role in their compensation. Whether you're an aspiring actor, a curious viewer, or simply a trivia enthusiast, let's explore what lies behind those memorable jingles and captivating on-screen moments.

  1. Introduction

    • A quick overview of the commercial acting industry.
    • The attraction of commercial acting for aspiring actors.
  2. Understanding Commercial Acting Salaries

    • Differentiating between principal actors and background extras.
    • Factors affecting an actor's paycheck: Screen time, speaking roles, and brand prominence.
  3. Types of Commercial Contracts and Their Pay Scales

    • National commercials: The big bucks and wider exposure.
    • Regional commercials: Limited to specific regions but can still pay well.
    • Digital commercials: Web-based promotions and their growing influence.
    • Infomercials and shopping network presentations.
  4. Residuals: The Gift that Keeps Giving

    • How residuals work in commercial acting.
    • Factors determining the amount of residuals: Airtime, reach, and platform.
  5. Other Financial Considerations

    • Union vs. non-union commercials: Understanding the pay disparity.
    • Benefits and insurance considerations for commercial actors.
    • Potential deductions: commissions, taxes, and more.
  6. Real-life Examples

    • Citing a few commercial actors and their reported earnings.
    • The highest-paid commercial actors: Success stories.
  7. Conclusion

    • Reflecting on the potential earnings in commercial acting.
    • Encouraging aspiring actors to consider commercials as a viable revenue stream while pursuing other acting endeavors.


The entertainment industry, vast and diverse, presents numerous avenues for individuals to shine. One such glittering path, often overlooked amidst the glamour of blockbuster films and primetime TV dramas, is commercial acting. But don't be mistaken, while the roles might be short-lived, lasting anywhere from a fleeting few seconds to a couple of minutes, their impact can be lasting, reverberating through households and becoming conversation starters.

A Quick Overview of the Commercial Acting Industry

The commercial acting sector is distinctively vibrant. It's a realm where advertisements tell stories, sell products, or promote brands through relatable narratives or catchy visuals. The industry itself is vast, spanning across television, digital platforms, billboards, radio, and even tucked inside your favorite apps. Globally, it's a multi-billion-dollar industry, with companies keen to invest heavily in ensuring their products are portrayed positively and memorably.

Actors in commercials are essential components in this story-selling process. They might play the frustrated homeowner who finds solace in a particular brand of coffee or the ecstatic car owner cruising down the highway. Every emotion they portray is carefully curated to evoke a specific reaction from the audience.

The Attraction of Commercial Acting for Aspiring Actors

For many budding , commercial acting presents a gold mine of opportunities. Here's why:

  1. Exposure: A well-aired commercial can offer visibility unmatched by many other platforms. Imagine being seen by millions, perhaps even billions if the ad goes viral, in a short span.

  2. Financial Benefits: While the roles are brief, the pay can be surprisingly lucrative, especially for national campaigns or well-established brands. It's not just about the initial paycheck; residuals can keep an actor's bank balance healthy for quite a while.

  3. Skill Development: Commercials demand a concise expression of emotions, providing actors an excellent ground to hone their craft, perfecting the art of saying more with less.

  4. Stepping Stone: Many of today's leading actors started with commercials. It's a brilliant launching pad, offering a glimpse into the workings of the entertainment world, networking opportunities, and the chance to be noticed by industry heavyweights.

  5. Flexibility: Often, shooting for commercials doesn't take as long as filming a movie or a TV series episode. This shorter commitment period is perfect for actors to juggle multiple projects or those who value a work-life balance.

In conclusion, while the allure of being a leading star in movies or TV shows is undeniable, commercial acting offers its own set of rewards. For those armed with passion, talent, and a bit of strategy, the world of commercials can be both fulfilling and financially rewarding.

  1. forefront of the advertisement, playing a pivotal role in conveying the brand's message. Their responsibility is substantial, as they directly influence the viewer's perception of the product or service. As a result, principal actors generally command higher pay. Their roles can be as diverse as the main character in a storyline commercial to the person uttering a catchy tagline.

  2. Background Extras: As the name suggests, these actors provide depth and context to the commercial's setting. Whether it's a crowded cafe scene or a bustling street, background extras contribute to making the environment realistic and relatable. While their roles are essential, they're less central to the ad's primary message. Consequently, background extras usually earn less than principal actors. However, for many budding talents, these roles provide invaluable on-set experience and a stepping stone to more prominent roles.

Factors Affecting an Actor's Paycheck: From Screen Time to Brand Power

  1. Screen Time: It's a simple equation – the longer you're visible on screen, the higher your potential earnings. A principal actor who dominates the screen for the majority of a 30-second commercial will typically earn more than someone appearing briefly.

  2. Speaking Roles: If you've got lines, especially memorable ones, you're likely to pocket a heftier paycheck. Speaking roles demand memorization, perfect delivery, and often, the ability to convey a brand's ethos in just a few words. This added responsibility generally comes with increased compensation.

  3. Brand Prominence: Landing a role in a commercial for a globally recognized brand, think Apple or Nike, can be significantly more lucrative than working for a lesser-known local company. Big brands have heftier advertising budgets and are often willing to invest substantially in ensuring they secure top talent.

  4. Exclusivity Clauses: Sometimes, actors might be asked not to appear in commercials for competing brands for a specified period. This exclusivity can limit their opportunities, so contracts often include additional compensation to offset potential lost earnings.

  5. Residuals: On top of the initial payment, actors can earn residuals. This means they get paid every time the commercial airs, which can quickly add up, especially for ads that enjoy heavy rotation or have a long lifespan.

In conclusion, while commercial acting might seem straightforward, the pay structure is multifaceted. It's governed by both the actor's role and external factors like brand prestige. For those contemplating a foray into this world, it's crucial to understand these nuances, ensuring they negotiate fair compensation for their talent and effort.

SAG-AFTRA Commercial Rates

On-camera principal talent (per spot):

8 hour week day: $671.69 10 hour week day: $923.57 (2 hours overtime) 12 hour week day: $1,259.41 (4 hours overtime) 8 hour week-end/holiday $1,343.38 (double time) On camera tags (each tag): $198.22

Extra Performers (per spot):

8 hour week day: $366.37 10 hour week day: $503.75 (2 hours overtime) 12 hour week day: $686.93 (4 hours overtime) 8 hour week-end/holiday $732.74 (double time) 8 hour hand /scale $559.02 10 hour hand model/scale $768.66 (2 hours overtime) 12 hour hand model/scale $1,048.18 (4 hours overtime)


Minimum one hour prior day fitting: $83.96 Every 15 min after first hour $20.99 Clothing compensation $19.21 (evening wear: $31.99)

Residuals: The Gift that Keeps Giving in Commercial Acting

In the shimmering world of commercial acting, the initial paycheck from a shoot is only part of the story. For many actors, the real boon comes in the form of residuals. Often dubbed as the gift that keeps on giving, residuals are continuous payments made to actors for the reuse of content they've acted in. But how do they work? And what determines their size and frequency? Let's delve into the world of residuals to unearth the treasures hidden within.

Understanding Residuals in Commercial Acting

At its core, a residual is a type of royalty that actors receive when a commercial is replayed beyond its original agreement. For instance, if you're hired for a commercial that's intended to air ten times and it gets played fifty times, you're paid extra for those forty reruns. Residuals recognize the continued value an actor brings to a project every time it's aired, ensuring they are fairly compensated for the continual use of their performance.

Factors Determining the Amount of Residuals

  1. Airtime Frequency:
    • The more times a commercial airs, the more residuals an actor receives. For instance, a national commercial aired during prime time will likely generate larger residuals than one shown in a non-peak hour. However, it's essential to note that the amount typically decreases after a certain number of airings.
  2. Reach of the Commercial:
    • An ad that airs nationwide inherently reaches more viewers than one restricted to a regional audience. Therefore, commercials with broader reach, especially those on national networks or during major events (think Super Bowl or the Oscars), usually result in heftier residual checks.
  3. Platform Variation:
    • Residuals aren't limited to just television. If a commercial is repurposed for online platforms, streaming services, or even radio, actors are due residuals for those as well. Digital platforms, given their expansive growth, have become significant sources of residuals. The rates may vary depending on the platform; for instance, a YouTube ad might have a different residual structure than a commercial on a premium streaming service.

A Few Key Points to Remember:

  • Union vs. Non-Union: Actors associated with a union, such as SAG-AFTRA, often have structured residual rates, ensuring consistent and fair payments. Non-union gigs might not offer the same guarantees, so it's crucial to scrutinize contracts closely.

  • Negotiation Power: An actor with a strong portfolio or unique appeal can sometimes negotiate better residual rates, especially if they play a principal role in the commercial.

  • Duration Matters: Residuals typically aren't eternal. They often have a set duration, after which the commercial can be used without additional payments. Understanding this duration is vital to ensure one receives all dues.

In conclusion, while the upfront payment for a commercial gig is undeniably important, many actors find consistent, long-term financial benefits in the world of residuals. By understanding the mechanisms and factors influencing residuals, actors can better navigate contracts, ensuring they reap the rewards of their hard work for years to come.

Other Financial Considerations for Commercial Actors

The allure of commercial acting often hinges on the potential for lucrative paychecks and the possibility of residuals. However, beyond the surface-level earnings, numerous financial considerations can significantly impact an actor's take-home pay. From union affiliations to the less glamorous aspects like taxes, it's essential to navigate these waters with an informed compass. Here's a deep dive into these financial nuances every commercial actor should be aware of.

Union vs. Non-Union Commercials: The Pay Disparity

  1. Union Affiliations:
    • Actors associated with unions such as SAG-AFTRA or the Actors' Equity Association generally command higher pay rates for commercial gigs. These unions have established minimum wage rates for their members, ensuring they are fairly compensated for their work. Additionally, unionized jobs often come with guaranteed working conditions, overtime pay, and other benefits.
  2. Non-Union Work:
    • While non-union commercials might offer more flexibility in terms of negotiations, they often don't provide the same level of security or guaranteed pay as union gigs. Non-union actors may find themselves facing stiffer competition and potentially lower pay rates, given the absence of standardized wage structures.

Benefits and Insurance Considerations

  1. and Pension Benefits:
    • Union actors often enjoy comprehensive health benefits and pension plans, a significant advantage, especially for those considering long-term careers in the industry. These benefits can play a crucial role in offsetting potential medical expenses and ensuring financial security in later years.
  2. Insurance for Injuries:
    • Commercial acting can sometimes involve stunts or physically demanding scenes. It's essential to understand whether a production provides insurance in case of on-set injuries or mishaps.

Potential Deductions: The Unavoidable Costs

  1. Agency Commissions:

    • Whether you're union-affiliated or not, they will typically take a commission if you've secured a commercial gig through an agency. Depending on the agency's terms, this fee can range from 10% to 20%. Always factor in this deduction when considering potential earnings.
  2. Taxes:

    • As with any profession, actors are not immune to taxes. Commercial actors, especially those who work as freelancers, need to set aside a portion of their earnings to cover state and federal tax liabilities. It's often advisable to consult with an accountant familiar with the entertainment industry to ensure all deductions are appropriately handled.
  3. Other Costs:

    • Travel expenses, accommodation (if not covered by the production), wardrobe costs, and training or workshop fees are other potential deductions an actor might encounter. While some of these costs can be written off as business expenses during tax time, keeping meticulous records is essential.

In Summary

While commercial acting offers a compelling blend of fame and fortune, navigating its financial landscape requires diligence and knowledge. Actors can make informed decisions by understanding the disparities in union versus non-union gigs, the importance of benefits, and the inevitability of certain deductions, ensuring they maximize their earnings while safeguarding their financial futures.

Real-life Examples of Commercial Actor Earnings

In the realm of commercial acting, success stories are both motivating and enlightening. They serve as testament to the fact that commercials can not only provide substantial income but also act as a stepping stone to larger roles in the entertainment industry. Let's look at some of these real-life examples:

  1. Jonathan Goldsmith – “The Most Interesting Man in the World” for Dos Equis: Before landing this iconic role, Goldsmith had made several appearances on TV shows. But it was this commercial that made him a household name. Reports suggest he made a significant sum during his run, emphasizing the power of consistent work with a single brand.

  2. Stephanie Courtney – “Flo” from Progressive: Flo's character is one of the most recognizable in the world of commercials. Courtney's recurring role in these ads not only brought her fame but also a hefty paycheck, rumored to be in the ballpark of $500,000 to $1 million annually.

  3. Paul Marcarelli – “Can you hear me now?” for Verizon: Paul became the face of Verizon for over a decade with his memorable catchphrase. While exact numbers aren't public, his consistent presence in a major campaign for a leading brand indicates substantial earnings.

The Highest-Paid Commercial Actors: Success Stories

Commercial acting has given to several success stories. Some actors, like Jared Fogle for Subway (before his controversy) or the Pine-Sol Lady (Diane Amos), have turned commercial gigs into long-term relationships with brands, leading to consistent and significant income.

However, the pinnacle of commercial success might be epitomized by actors like Isaiah Mustafa. Recognized as the “Old Spice Guy”, Mustafa's dynamic appearances in the Old Spice commercials not only earned him a great deal of money but also opened doors to roles in movies and TV shows.

Conclusion: The Earning Potential in Commercial Acting

The world of commercial acting is filled with opportunities. As demonstrated by the aforementioned actors, commercials can be a lucrative venture, sometimes even more than TV or film roles, especially when considering the residuals involved.

For aspiring actors, commercials offer a platform to showcase talent, build a recognizable face, and earn consistently. While the allure of big-screen stardom is undeniable, the practicality of commercials as a steady revenue stream cannot be overlooked. Furthermore, with the rise of digital media, the scope of commercials is only widening.

In conclusion, don't bypass the commercial route if you're an actor looking for both exposure and a stable income. Embrace it, and you might just find yourself earning handsomely and becoming a face people across the country recognize and love. Remember, every screen – big, small, or digital – holds its magic and potential.

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Megan Diane
Hi, I'm Megan Browne, the Head of Partnerships at Project Casting - a job board for the entertainment industry. As Head of Partnerships, I help businesses find the best talent for their influencer campaigns, photo shoots, and film productions. Creating these partnerships has enabled me to help businesses scale and reach their true potential. I'm excited to continue driving growth by connecting people with projects they're passionate about.

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