You've seen her over and over in commercials: for Esurance, Metamucil, 1-800-Dentist and even Milo's Kitchen dog treats, but you can't quite put your finger on who she is . That's because Suzi Barrett has that everywoman look that makes her easily identifiable as the girl next door, which has helped her land a lot of advertising work.
"She has that perfect balance of being able to be intelligent or dopey, witty, snarky or just plain crazy in whatever measure she chooses, and always come across as credible," said Fred Joyal, vice chairman and co-founder of 1-800 Dentist owner Futuredontics.
"I love doing commercials. I absolutely love it," said Ms. Barrett, a comedian who sidelines in spots, leveraging her background in improvisation to secure commercial jobs because "you tend to get more of those auditions." Commercials, she said, are a "good way to make money and quicker then waiting tables."
The comedy background doesn't hurt, either. "Improvisers are appealing to casting directors" because of their abilities to write, add lines and roll with changing situations as the camera runs. She recalls her training with The Second City in Chicago as coming in handy during the shooting of the 1-800-Dentist commercials because she was actually asked to write for the campaign after doing some improv on the set.
Mr. Joyal wants to take credit for discovering Ms. Barrett. "She would write a dozen concept scripts, and I would pick the ones I liked and rework them to get the business copy in. Probably a third of the spots in the campaign were her ideas."
Working not only as an actress, but also as a writer on the 1-800-Dentist advertising campaign, Ms. Barrett was introduced first-hand to the advertising industry. She described it as a constant "wrestling match between creative advertisers and their clients" but praised the industry for putting "tons of creativity" into campaigns.
Commercials have also given her notoriety with 2,000 friends on Facebook -- and even an online debate she finds amusing about whether she's "hot." She enjoys the comments "in a novelty sort of way," she said. "People like what I'm doing and find me funny. It's like moral support."
When asked if she would ever refuse to do an ad campaign for fear of being associated with a specific product or brand, at first she simply said no. After a brief pause, however, she said, "If it was something horrible. If it was harming the world in some way then maybe I wouldn't do it." So far, with only having to work with brands providing dog treats, insurance, fiber and information on dental care, Ms. Barrett has yet to run into a marketer that would cause problems on a global scale.
With an eye to the future and her hopes of moving from pitching insurance and dog treats to working with a major network, Ms. Barrett explained very simply that "whatever job I'm meant to have will find me."
And Madison Avenue, you know where to find her.
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