Forbes - The Next Breakout Stars

The Next Breakout Stars


Ten personalities who click with audiences and have the potential to become household names.

How does a celebrity make the jump from cult hero for a small group
of fans to a national icon who has corporate America clamoring for
A handful of actors, comedians and musicians may soon have the chance to find out. Take Michael Weatherly, star of the CBS


) Navy crime drama NCIS, a show that's been a ratings smash for most of its six years but whose stars haven't been heavily promoted.

As special agent Anthony DiNozzo, Weatherly has very high likability
ratings among the show's fans, according to tracking from Los
Angeles-based E-Poll Market Research. The problem: Not enough people
know who he is. E-Poll's numbers show that 49% of viewers familiar with
Weatherly say they "like him a lot," but that he's familiar to only 14%
of the potential audience.

"If I were a handler, I'd work with CBS to get him on other things,"
says Gerry Philpott, E-Poll's chief executive. "You've got a number of
reality shows and variety shows out there, enough vehicles to showcase
people." Gigs on Dancing With the Stars or Saturday Night Live
provide tons of potential value for a star to show off the flip side of
his public personality, he notes. Nothing like a light, popular show to
let a big audience see you out of character and in good humor.
looked for potential superstars who score high with audiences in
likability but low in awareness. The good news for six of the top 10 is
that they're on network television, still the biggest draw for raw
viewing numbers and the home of awards shows and other specials that
allow management to showcase their talent stable.

The six: Weatherly and Cote dePablo of NCIS (CBS), Hill Harper and Emily Procter of CSI (CBS), Yvonne Strahovski of Chuck (NBC) and Cobie Smulders of How I Met Your Mother (CBS).
often holds back actors in ensemble shows like these are the tight grip
that the network holds over publicity. Publicists are known to push one
star over another, no matter who the media requests most often, notes
Noreen Janney, president of Los Angeles-based Celebrity Endorsement
Network, which helps marketers pick endorsers.
So the celebrity's
personal publicist "needs to push that network publicist for his guy,"
Janney says. Meantime, plain old personal appearances and
ribbon-cutting ceremonies can go a long way toward building a bridge to
the broader public, she says.
Campbell Brown, the CNN news anchor
who gained attention last fall by grilling a spokesman for John
McCain's presidential campaign on the wisdom of selecting Sarah Palin
as a running mate, has lots of potential too. News organizations
generally frown at the idea of their on-air personalities dabbling in
the entertainment or endorsement world. But should Brown decide to
shift out of straight news, she's got the goods to make lots of money
on the side.

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