First an (attempted) answer to Dawn's question:
What's especially ironic regarding many of those British accents is that they originate in the Cockney, or some other working class community--they are the Brit equivalent of the "uneducated", lower class Southern drawl. So what we perceive to be a distinguished voice of authority is actually looked down upon in its native land (remember Eliza Doolittle in "Pygmalion" and "My Fair Lady"?). Conversely, there are a lot of British and Australian actors who are doing a very good job of sounding American (Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House, am I right people?).
As for the French accents pushing cosmetics and fashion, yeah, they're more exotic sounding than an American accent because we're Americans--we hear American accents every day. There's nothing at all exotic about them. And when you're promoting a product or service that positions itself as exotic or chic, well why wouldn't you use someone who sounds the part.
I think (in fact, I'm quite certain) you're dead wrong about American actors not being used in foreign commercials. Not only are they highly sought after both in Europe and Asia (see the Bill Murray film, "Lost In Translation"), but there are actors who you would never
see doing commercials here who are paid a fortune to do work in other countries. A-list movie stars whose high paying careers would be destroyed if they did an ad here in the States, are routinely doing commercials left and right overseas.
Finally, in answer to SeamusD's consternation over people who reference European countries for utilizing technologies and techniques we're reluctant to try in this country, I think folks who do that are just trying to make others realize that these methods are actually in practice and working successfully. It's not a matter of the U.S. being less evolved or stupider than other countries.
On the other hand, why are we so reluctant to try new, proven methods? If we're taking the attitude that, "We're Americans and we're the best and we don't need anyone else telling us how to do things!", well that's just stupid. Now settle down. I'm NOT
stupid. But that attitude certainly is. Thinking we can't learn anything from other countries is ridiculous, especially now when every country should be sharing information on how we can all live a better life.
It's a small, small world out there these days. There are some
countries doing some
things better than us and refusing to recognize that out of stubbornness or just plain misplaced pride is a fool's game that will ultimately lead to the deterioration of this country.
The United States of America is a great country, but believing that our
way is the only
way is ignorant and destructive.
<message edited by BuddyRoadhouse on Mon, 07/11/11 1:12 AM>