I've noticed that a large number of companies use actors in their TV commercials with English, French, or other foreign accents. I suppose that companies feel that an articulate accented spokesperson lends more superiority to their product. I was wondering if the converse lies across the pond. Do foreign companies use actors in their commercials with American accents? Like a French company using an actor speaking French with an American accent?
-- Watching too much TV
"Definitely YES!" This from our friend Monsieur Gil, originally from Brooklyn, now a long-time ex-pat selling things to his fellow Frenchmen from his advertising agency in Paris. An American accent is de rigueur if you're selling jeans or tortilla chips or some other product either made in or associated with the U.S. He claims the perfect American-accented French for selling stuff will have a sort of rural twang to it -- French spoken by someone from Oklahoma or Texas. Uncle Ben's Rice is sold with a voiceover actor speaking French with a very deep voice and a Louisiana Creole accent. But it doesn't stop there. Even French with a European accent carries a subliminal message. A Belgian accent suggests thick-headedness. Swiss: sluggishness. British: snobbishness or distinction. German: an authoritarian air. French-Canadian (the accent of 16th-century France, he says): quaint and ridiculous. He goes on at some length about regional French accents too; but in a nutshell, yes, American-accented French apparently makes the average guy from Paris want to drop everything and rush to EuroDisney.
Our London correspondent takes a more philosophical view. Yes, an American accent sells American products (an inexplicably large quantity of Budweiser beer, he says). American movie stars are particularly popular in British commercials. But in general, Americans and Aussies are used in British advertising (and in TV programs) to do or say outrageous things that the Brits secretly wish they could do but won't actually do because they'd be ostracized by their neighbors if they did. An American accent suggests outrageousness and something socially unacceptable but secretly desirable. Once again, a Texas drawl doesn't hurt. Dallas was a bigger hit in England than in the U.S. To a Frenchman or a Brit, the definitive American is the cowboy. And a Hollywood cowboy is probably better than the real thing.