What it’s like for an actor to become a TV commercial megastar—forever associated with a brand, for better and worse:

On the day of the audition, roughly 30 actors showed up. When it was Olcott’s turn, he flashed his big, ecstatic smile. The director loved it, and Olcott got the job. In February, on a bare-bones budget of roughly $100,000, a first commercial was shot touting the herbal product Enzyte. It boiled down to 30 seconds of campy innuendo. Olcott was shown breezing through life flashing his blissed-out smile at breakfast, at work, and while waving happily to his neighbor, a guy holding a sagging hose. ‘This is Bob,’ went the voice-over. ‘Bob is doing well. Very well indeed. That’s because not long ago, with just a quick phone call, Bob realized that he could have something better in his life. And what did he get? Why, a big boost of confidence, a little more self-esteem, and a very happy Mrs. at home.’ Toward the end of the commercial, viewers were given a telephone number for Enzyte.

A couple months later, Olcott got a phone call from the advertising team in Los Angeles. The commercial was a huge hit in the U.S. The phones at Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, the Cincinnati-based maker of Enzyte, were ringing like crazy. They wanted more ads, more Bob, more smiles. Spear rushed back to Vancouver. By the time they stopped shooting in 2005, Olcott had starred as Smiling Bob in 18 different Enzyte commercials. Ultimately, Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals spent more than $125 million on airtime, the company’s founder would later tell GQ. Smiling Bob was famous.

“Branded for Life.” — Felix Gillette, Bloomberg Businessweek

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