To look at this list you'd think the first step in becoming a veritable Hollywood star is appearing in a promo for Carl's Jr. Sure, a commercial is a coveted gig for any upstart actor, but we're willing to bet big bucks a few of the thespians in the photos ahead cringe whenever this footage resurfaces. The gloriously awkward, the iconic, and the truly surprising… from royals to Oscar winners, here’s a round-up of everybody you completely forgot (or never knew) once promoted junk food.
Leonardo DiCaprio for Kraft
A young Leonardo DiCaprio is all of us when we’re hangry for ‘fat-free cheese’ and mom says “no, no, no, they’re for your dad, you know he’s watching his cholesterol” in this EPIC commercial from 1989.
Kristen Wiig for Pizza Hut
Like everything Kristen Wiig touches, her 2017 “Everyman” campaign with Pizza Hut is gold. Portraying a variety of ‘everyman’ characters and personalities, the commercial is actually hysterical.
Steve Carell for Brown's Chicken
Before Steve Carrell made it big, he starred in a 1990 commercial for Brown’s Chicken. Watching the ad is like watching a young Michael Scott—which is, of course, a beautiful thing.
Cameron Diaz for Coca-Cola
A young Cameron Diaz starred in a couple of surprisingly artsy and beautiful Coca-Cola commercials back in the early 90s, as part of Coca-Cola’s “Can’t Beat the Real Thing” campaign. Filmed at the very beginning of Diaz’s career, the ads must have put her on the map; she’d soon go on to star opposite Jim Carrey in The Mask.
Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen for McDonald's
Back in 2004, McDonald’s hired the Olsen twins to promote its Happy Meals in France. A CNN Money article from the time reported that McDonald’s French site showed the then-teens and the various branded items, including a pre-Elizabeth-and-James “sac en jean Mary-Kate and Ashley.”
Brad Pitt for Pringles
Back in 1996, then 26-year-old Brad Pitt appeared shirtless in a beach party-esque spot for Pringles. The plot line in the commercial is rather avant-garde and undefined, but young Pitt makes it worth a watch.
Ben Affleck for Burger King
Another young heartthrob, another bizarre plot line. Young Ben Affleck gets a call on his cellular device—a gadget with an antenna and all—from a mysterious, sultry-voiced woman asking him to pick her up Burger King. Affleck decides he's game. He proceeds to anonymously drop off the Burger King order at an attractive girl’s house (there's a hole in the plot, as we don't know how he's come to know her address) before his dad calls him and summons him home. If this 1989 commercial sounds like somebody's "really weird dream from last night," it probably is, and yet it kind of works.
Meghan Markle for Tostitos
YUP. Back in 2009, before Meghan Markle was even Rachel Zane on Suits and long before she was a member of the royal family, she starred in a Tostitos commercial. The commercial was called “3 Ingredients” and starred Markle as a grocery shopper pondering which chips to buy for a get-together with friends. Watch the spot here.
Ashton Kutcher for Pop Chips
Before there was the PR disaster that was Kendall Jenner for Pepsi, there was Ashton Kutcher for Pop Chips. Kutcher did a variety of accents in his 2012 commercial for the snack brand, but the one that drew sharp criticism was his portrayal of Raj, a fictional Indian character. Kutcher wore brown makeup (pardon me, but in WHAT WORLD did anybody think this was a good idea??). The ad was, unsurprisingly, swiftly pulled.
Heidi Klum for McDonald's
Back in 2008, just four years after the release of Supersize Me, supermodel Heidi Klum promoted McDonald's Germany’s ‘Snack Deluxe’ menu addition in a commercial during which she excitedly eats a chicken wrap.
Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and Pink for Pepsi
2004’s ultimate squad goals: Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and Pink all starred in perhaps the most iconic Super Bowl ad of all time. Dressed in epic gladiator-of-the-early-aughts outfits, the trio turned “We Will Rock You” into a power-girl anthem.
Ringo Starr for Pizza Hut
Back in 1995, Ringo Starr (yes, the Beatle) dazzled in a commercial for Pizza Hut’s crust-stuffed pizza. As interestingly noted by The Telegraph: “Weirdly, Starr has never eaten a slice of pizza in real life due to severe allergies to onions, garlic, and spices, and can be glimpsed at the very end of his Pizza Hut advert trying very hard not to actually insert a slice into his mouth.” Go figure!
Paris Hilton for Carl's Jr.
Paris Hilton has been tapped twice for Carl’s Jr campaigns, first in 2005 and then again in 2014. The most recent one shows the hotel heiress her wearing a bathing suit and saying ‘that’s hot’ at the end. #PlotTwist.
Drake for Sprite
Back in 2010, Drake starred in the first spot created for Sprite’s “Obey Your Thirst” campaign. In a turn of events too crazy not to mention, Drake’s house was actually later robbed in 2017 and the burglar, a 24-year-old woman, was caught wearing one of Drake’s hoodies while enjoying the one thing she stole: A CAN OF SPRITE.
*NSYNC for Chili's
As part of Chili’s 2002 promotion of *NYSNC’s “Celebrity Tour,” the band created 2 renditions of the “Baby Backs Ribs” jingle. This commercial—in which the group sings a capella on a stranded island about the fast-casual chain—is a particular gem of early-2000s pop culture.
Chrissy Teigan for McDonald’s
Tapped as the new face of McDonald's dollar menu back in January, Teigen starred as her best self in a commercial that aired during the peak of award show season. The spot involves a hungry Teigen leaving mid-fictional-award-show to go to a drive-through and order a “they never feed you at those things” meal. Teigen then returns to the award show and to the delight of the fancily dressed people around her, shares her order.
Katy Perry for Pop Chips
Following Ashton’s bellyflop of a campaign for Pop Chips, Katy Perry was tapped for the brand, appearing in four print ads back in 2012. The ads feature jokes about vampires and fake boobs (“nothing fake about ‘em”) in addition to decently witty food puns (“spare me the guilt chip”).
One Direction and Drew Brees for Pepsi
Harry Styles and Drew Brees debate who deserves to get Pepsi first in this 2012 commercial: someone with a platinum album or a person who's won a Super Bowl. The argument is resolved when a 1D member suggests that Brees can join the band if he lets Harry have the first Pepsi. Compromise!
Aaron Paul for Kellogs Pops
Back in 1999, a pre-Breaking Bad Aaron Paul starred in a very 90’s (the spike-y hair, the short-sleeve shirt over the long-sleeve shirt, the necklace) Corn Pops commercial.
Jane Lynch for Frosted Flakes
Back in the mid-90’s, Jane Lynch starred in a hilarious Kellogg’s commercial titled, “Stalking Tony the Tiger.” Though the spot is only 30 seconds, the commercial has largely been credited for kicking off Lynch’s career. The commercial’s director, Christopher Guest, went on to cast Lynch in his next project: the cult classic Best in Show.
Jennifer Lawrence for Burger King
In one of JLa's earliest acting gigs, she starred as the girlfriend of a Whopper Jr. hamburger in this Burger King spot from way back in the day. (Seriously, how many celebrities have flirted with hamburgers at this point??)
Nelly for Honey Nut Cheerios
First off, “Must be the honey” is quite possibly the best food pun of all time. Nelly starred in the 2013 campaign of the same name, produced by Saatchi & Saatchi. Ahead of the collaboration, Nelly gave this witty quote to the press: "I've worked with some very talented artists and thought, I think it's about time I work with the Bee."
Nicki Minaj for Pepsi
Tapped as a global ambassador for Pepsi back in 2012, the first commercial in the Nicki-Pepsi collaboration saw a mannequin challenge (before those became an annoying thing two years ago) and a catchy remix to “Moment for Life.”
Bill Cosby and Lindsay Lohan for Jell-O
So, um, this 1996 commercial has a considerably cringe-worthy synopsis to grapple with in 2018: Bill Cosby raps about kids going crazy for grape Jell-O, surrounded by a group of happy children. A young Lindsay Lohan appears in the background.
Michael Jackson for Pepsi
Back in 1983, Michael Jackson teamed up with director Bob Girardi to remix "Billie Jean" for the Pepsi Generation. The $5 million partnership broke the record for a celebrity endorsement deal at the time. The legendary video boasts 79 million views and counting on YouTube.
Shakira for Activia
Crowned the most shared ad of all time (back in 2014), data from Unruly indicates that Shakira’s “La La Land” commercial with Activia was shared 5.375 million times across Facebook, Twitter, and blogs in the two months after its initial launch alone. It’s also worth noting that unlike the majority of brands featured in this round-up, researchers from NYU found Activia to be one of the healthiest foods endorsed by celebrities with a 71.4 score on the Nutrition Profile Index (100 is the best).
Usher for Twix
Usher’s rap about Twix quite literally feels like stepping into a time machine in this ancient 2002 spot. Usher also promoted Honey Nut Cheerios in 2014 too, where he faced off in a dance competition against the bee.
Elton John for Pepsi
Back in 2012, Elton John starred in a Pepsi Super Bowl commercial. The (probably very expensive) commercial is pretty boring, but Elton Johnson’s golden boots make it worth watching.
The Rolling Stones for Rice Krispies
Setting the bar impossibly high for all jingles to come, The Rolling Stones’ 1964 jingle for Rice Krispies is as catchy and feel-good as they come.
Matthew McConaughey for Carl's Jr.
Nope, this isn’t one of the celebrities on this list who advertised a lesser-known fast food chain before becoming famous. Matthew McConaughey, Academy Award winner, did a voiceover for Carl’s Jr earlier this year. Ad Week notes that Carl’s Jr is pivoting away from the over-the-top sex appeal that once defined the brand (see: earlier slides featuring Kim K., Kate Upton, etc.).
Drew Barrymore for Pillsbury
Four-year-old Drew Barrymore—one of the cutest little kids of all time—starred in this 1979 spot for Pillsbury cookie dough. She’d go on to star in ET soon after.
Jaimie Potters is the Commerce Content Manager at Hearst Magazines Digital Media, where she covers fashion, beauty, tech and more.
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