Most performers in commercials don't make life-changing money. They often work for scale, a minimum negotiated by the Screen Actors Guild: $592.20 per day of work, plus a declining fraction in residuals as the commercial airs, down to $51.65 per showing. There are separate rate schedules for network, local and cable TV, and it can add up to a healthy middle-class lifestyle. But celebrities—and performers in long-term campaigns like Stephanie Courtney and Pete Holmes—may graduate to more lucrative deals, says Doug Ely, a commercial agent at AKA Talent.
"I'm sure Stephanie has a multiyear contract," Mr. Ely says. "Let's say she gets $100,000 per year, though I'm sure she gets substantially more than that at this point. They'd contract for x amount of work that includes commercials, print ads, radio, personal appearances."
Ms. Courtney declined to talk about her deal, but concedes, "It's definitely changed from where I was. But where I was, was a one-room studio, really hand-to-mouthing it. Now, to not freak out if you have to go to the dentist or something, it's made life a little easier."
Mr. Holmes also didn't want to be specific, but added: "When it's all said and done—many recording sessions, many rewrites, rerecords, and after they've all aired for a year— you're looking at about the starting salary of an ophthalmologist."
Brian Baker, a former Second City improv actor who played the "trench-coat guy" in Sprint ads for six years, says the role was like hitting the lottery. Bobby Collins, a Los Angeles comedian, says he got more than $300,000 for appearing as himself in four Certs commercials.
Also worth mentioning: All those auditions ya have to go on that lead nowhere.