An Oral History of Celebrities in Embarrassing Pre-Fame Commercials

Yes, that's Leo selling you bubblegum

Brad Pitt - Pringles
After minor roles on shows like Dallas and 21 Jump Street, 26-year-old Brad landed a Pringles commercial in 1989, playing a shirtless bro whose car breaks down. Thankfully, Brad and his fellow shirtless bros find a group of girls who have Pringles. They have a party, their car gets fixed, and they leave, but the girls are suddenly out of Pringles.

Mila Kunis - Lisa Frank
Shortly after landing her first advert for Glitter Hair Barbie, 13-year-old Mila told everyone about how she'd never forget the day she got stuck on Lisa Frank in 1993. 

Britney Spears - Maull's Barbecue Sauce
Right after being cast in The Mickey Mouse Club with Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, and others, Britney was hired to star in a commercial for barbecue sauce.

Matt LeBlanc - Heinz
Before Friends, Matt starred in a number of commercials for Cherry 7Up, KFC, Coca Cola, and Heinz tomato ketchup.

Naomi Watts - Tampax
In the '80s, Naomi starred in a advert to promote Tampax, the "no-hassles tampon" that made things like going out with your friends easier. The ad originally aired in Australia but thanks to the powers of the Internet, it lives forever on YouTube. 

Courteney Cox
Tampax Less than one year after starring in Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" music video, Courteney joined forces with Tampax to promote the power of feeling clean. In the commercial, she reminders viewers that Tampax "can actually change the way you feel about your period."

Paul Rudd - Super Nintendo
You know what's better than playing video games? Playing video games outdoors, in the dark, with Paul Rudd, who's wearing a long trench coat in this 1991 advert for Super Nintendo. 


Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Pop Tarts
JGL's kindness it not breaking news, so you shouldn't be surprised that he starred in 1991 Pop Tarts commercial playing a kid who made sure his dad always had the most important meal of the day.

Elijah Wood - America's Dairy Farmers
In 1990, the boy who would be Frodo lent his talents to America's Dairy Farmers to convince kids that vegetables were cool.

Bryan Cranston - Preparation H
Want to hear Walter White say things like "absorption," "inflamed hemorrhoid tissue," or "itch?" Right this way.

Keanu Reeves - Coca Cola
One of Keanu's first jobs was this Coke ad in 1983. He plays a guy who races in a bike marathon and when it's all said and done, his dad greets him with a bottle of Coke.

Bruce Willis - Seagrams
During his stint on Moonlighting, Bruce signed a two-year contract with Seagrams to promote their line of wine coolers for a reported $7 million, which was a lot for 1987. This is the finished product and yes, you will definitely have the song in your head for the rest of the day.

Tobey Maguire - Atari Lynx
Watch sneaky little Tobey excuse himself from Mr. Block to play on his Atarli Lynx in the boys' toilet.

Stanley Tucci - Levis 501 Jeans
Just watch.

Stephen Colbert - First Tier Bank
Go ahead, take all my money, Stephen!

Megan Mullally - McDonald’s Egg McMuffin
Does anyone else really want an Egg McMuffin right now? And can someone call John Goodman to see if he wants one?

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Elisabeth Moss - Excedrin
Peggy Olson would totally have notes about this commercial to make it Clio worthy.

Drew Barrymore - Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookies
Is there anything cuter than a bb Drew Barrymore selling you something warm and sweet? Where’s E.T.? He should have one, too.

Jason Bateman - Golden Grahams
At 11, Jason made his acting debut in a cereal commercial that would pave the way for greater things like Silver Spoons, Arrested Development, and the Horrible Bosses movies. (In case you can’t recognize him, he’s the boy in the yellow shirt.)

Jane Lynch - Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes
In the ‘90s, Jane starred in a number of TV commercials, including this one for Frosted Flakes under the direction of Christopher Guest. She was so great (sorry) that Guest cast her in 2000 for Best in Show. Years later, Jane would call this commercial the gig that launched her career.

Kristen Stewart - Porsche
Long before getting into a Volvo C30 with Edward Cullen in the Twilight films, KStew promoted Porsche, despite not being old enough to drive at the time. That’s not the point though, she just loves the smooth ride of her dad’s Porsche, okay?

Sarah Michelle Gellar - Burger King
This is supremely cute. That’s all you need to know.

Seth Green - Nerf
In 1992, Nerf rolled out its Slingshot and hired Seth and his bangs to promote all you can do with the super cool toy, including picking up babes. 

Demi Moore - Diet Coke
This is why diet soda is so sexy.


Ben Affleck - Burger King
Ben plays an all-American bro who intercepts a call from a girl who just wants to order a chef’s salad from Burger King. What’s a chef’s sale? Does it matter?

Meg Ryan - Burger King
Note to ad agencies: Burger King needs to do a big commercial with all these OG stars. Stat.

Tina Fey - Mutual Savings Bank
Before SNL, 30 Rock, and all those American Express Commercials, Tina appeared in an ad for Mutual Savings Bank, a.k.a. the “Hi” commercial.

Leonardo DiCaprio - Bubble Yum
Leo’s career also started with commercials and among the highlights was this spot for Bubble Yum. 

Aaron Paul - Pop Tarts
Aaron proved in 1999 that nothing could come between him and his beloved Pops, not even his pretend parents or that insane head of hair. Gotta love the ‘90s.

Sharon Stone - Seagrams
Told you Bruce Willis’ Seagrams career included a cameo by Sharon Stone.

Lindsay Lohan - Jello
In 1996, LiLo appeared in a Jello commercial in head-to-toe purple, because, you know, that’s the color of grapes.

John Travolta - Band Aid
Years before Grease, John took off his shirt and sang the Band Aid theme song in the shower.

Dakota Fanning - Tide
Dakota once starred in a Tide commercial for its new Bleach Alternative detergent, which apparently best suits this family’s middle child and all her creative needs.

Jennifer Lawrence - Burger King
One of the best things to come out of the Burger King franchise was the Whopper Jr., which JLaw helped promoted in the ‘00s.


Mark Ruffalo - Clearasil
In 1989, Mark became the face of Clearasil for its Double Clear pads, which aimed to work twice as hard because of the second layer of medicine used to fight all the pimples on Mark’s face.

Charlie Day - Cascade 
Remember when dishwasher detergent commercials were all the rage? Charlie starred in one of them, playing a college graduate who just won’t grow up. Good thing his parents don’t have to worry about their dishes.

Jack Black - Activision
In 1983, a young Jack Black got super stoked about the new Pitfall! game for Activision and wore an adorable hat to make his point.

Kirsten Dunst - Baby Uh-Oh
Looking back, Baby Uh-Oh was a weird and creepy toy to have, right up there with Furbies and Gooey Louie.

Leighton Meester - Clearasil
One of the many products Clearasil released was its Ice Wash, which Leighton promoted in 2003.

Channing Tatum - Mountain Dew
This isn’t a lost Fast and Furious movie. It’s just Channing driving super fast because as he explains, “I forgot my Dew.”

Morgan Freeman - Polaroid
Before Morgan became the voice of Visa, he made several commercials in the ‘70s, including this one for Polaroid.

Steve Carell - Brown’s Chicken
Is there such thing as healthy fried chicken? Apparently, according to this 1989 commercial for Brown’s Chicken, starring Steve Carell and his poor sign-making skills.

Jeremy Renner - Kodak
Prior to embracing the role of Hawkeye, Jeremy paid the bills by starring in a number of commercials, including this one for Kodak.


Amy Adams - Commercial Federal Bank
In 1997, an unknown Amy Adams parodied Grease for this Omaha-filled spot for Commercial Federal Bank. If you make it past the 15-second mark, you’ll find a young Andrew Rannells channeling his best Danny Zuko.

Sofia Vergara - Pepsi
Sofia landed her first TV commercial at 17 when she starred in a Pepsi spot that aired in Colombia.

Rachel Leigh Cook - This Is Your Brain on Drugs PSA
Shortly after her career took off, Rachel starred in this anti-drug PSA with a frying pan to demonstrate the devastating effects of heroin.

James Franco - Pizza Hut
In 1998, Pizza Hut brought Elvis back from the dead to do the twist in a commercial that aired during Super Bowl 32. James Franco, who was working at McDonald’s at the time, was also in the ad, playing a teen who laughed at the thought of Elvis being back.

Salma Hayek - Burger Boy
In 2988, a 20-something-year-old Salma Hayek starred in her first TV commercial for Burger Boy, a Mexican burger chain that had a very catchy theme song.

Jared Leto - Secret Deodorant
An oldie but a goodie with Denise Richards as the star of the commercial. Does anyone else feel like binge-watching My So-Called Life now?

Milo Ventimiglia - Apple
Long before taking on the role of Jack Pearson on This Is Us, and right before he waltzed into Star’s Hollow, Milo starred in this 2001 commercial for Apple to promote its new iBook. Too bad it’s extremely unconvincing.

This story originally appeared on


* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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