the art of the pitch
Longtime Houston news anchor boasts serious commercial success in new TV gig
Local TV star Art Rascon anchored multiple newscasts daily on ABC13 (CultureMap's news partner) for a quarter-century before retiring last year. (Editor's note: Check out Ken's story on ABC13's historic Rascon-Rascon anchor transition here.)
Yet, somehow it seems he’s on TV more than ever these days. That’s because Rascon has reinvented himself as a TV commercial spokesperson. His spots for Terry Bryant Law and Kelsey-Seybold air relentlessly, all hours of the day, up and down the dial.
I caught up with Rascon during a commercial break so he could explain his career transition.
CultureMap: Was becoming a TV commercial spokesperson in your plans for a period of time? Did it figure into the timing of you leaving Channel 13?
Art Rascon: This was not in the initial plan when deciding to leave Channel 13. Not at all. I would occasionally say to myself, "Hey, I think I could do commercials when I leave here."
Melanie Lawson and I even joked about it on the set of the 5 p.m. news on commercial breaks during my final weeks with Channel 13. We laughed about it then but I didn’t start thinking seriously about a commercial career until after I left the news industry.
CM: How does it work? Do you have an agent? Does the agent go out looking for clients, or do clients come directly to you?
AR: The process is simple. This is not rocket science. Most companies or brands understand the value of having a credible, well-respected spokesperson to help shape their identity and represent them in the public forum.
Both companies, Kelsey-Seybold and Terry Bryant Law, sought me out through social media as someone they believed would represent them well. I’ve known these companies for a long time. There was some initial guidance through Houston talent agency Pastorini-Bosby for Kelsey-Seybold, but the connections to the companies were established through decades of reporting and anchoring for Channel 13.
CM: Anchoring the TV news requires one take, live on the air, no room for error. Filming a commercial allows you to flub up and do retakes. How much of a comfort is that?
AR: There is nothing "live" about commercials. You get as many takes as you want. So, yes, the pressure is off.
But there is still pressure to make it work, to reach the public in a unique way so that it’s a successful commercial. Companies monitor the response of these spots. I had a successful, 30-year career in Los Angeles and Houston because ratings were solid.
Well, it’s crazy, but there is a ratings system for commercials, too, and if they don’t perform well, then my commercial career will be short-lived. I’m happy to report that solid, positive reaction has been, in the words of one company, "off the charts!"
CM: Do you have to audition for these spots? Do you run into other retired news people?
AR: There is not a cattle call of former news personalities all gathered together, although that would be hilarious and a nice reunion. I suppose my audition was working 25 years on TV in Houston.
Joking aside, I did send a “read” of a Kelsey Seybold script. No audition was needed for Terry Bryant Law. The companies asked if I would be willing to do the commercials. Because I am very familiar with both companies, and they don’t compete with each other, I was all in.
CM: Do you have an edge coming from news — bringing credibility to the client’s business?
AR: The 'edge' I suppose is recognition. I don’t take any credit, but after working in this market for so long my name and face are fairly recognizable. Companies search for those who are credible, respectable, have strong standards and morals and years of community recognition. And somehow they still sought me out.
Seriously, I’m just grateful for the opportunity.
CM: How do your family and friends react to seeing you in the role of a commercial spokesman? Do they razz you pretty good? Are they jealous?
AR: Well, my family is bored by it all. It’s not a novelty anymore to see me on TV. They’ve seen it for decades. Friends, however, are like, 'Wow! It’s awesome to see you doing commercials now!'
I get stopped at supermarkets, gas stations, Home Depot, or anywhere else as much now as I did when anchoring and reporting the news. I don’t sense any jealousy from former coworkers or other news retirees; they are thrilled over what I am doing.
I will say, the person who gets razzed the most about the commercials is my son, Jacob Rascon who anchors the morning news for Channel 13: 'Oh, there’s your dad again on TV—he gets more air time than you!'
CM: Are there companies and products that you will not represent in a commercial?
AR: Reputation is everything. Anyone who has watched me over the many years of television news understands that I am a family man, deeply religious, with strong moral and ethical standards. I won’t involve myself with anything that does not align with my values. The public knows who I am.
Kelsey-Seybold and Terry Bryant Law are exceptional companies with comparable values and standards. As for what I won't endorse, don’t expect to see me doing a beer or wine commercial.
CM: What else have you been up to since leaving Channel 13?
AR: I do media consulting and presentation training with Spoken Word Communications, an international communications firm. I travel the world helping executives be better communicators.
I have also been contracted to voice an investigative KSL podcast called Ransom. It will be out late this year. I am president/owner of Rascon Media Group and serve as a regional leader for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, traveling throughout North America Southwest to serve congregations.
CM: Have you met Flo from Progressive Insurance or Jake from State Farm?
AR: I love Flo and Jake! They are my mentors (laughing)! I wish I could say we do lunch occasionally, but I’m still waiting for the invitation.
Everything I learned about commercial work was from them, watching their spots literally hundreds of times during commercial breaks while anchoring the news. I want to meet them some day!
Share your thoughts with Ken Hoffman at email@example.com.