Voice Over Jobs: How Much Does Celebrity Matter?
Have you found yourself innocently watching TV only to be bombarded by famous voices sending you messages that may or may not agree with their perceived “image”? Celebrities have been known to endorse products or services by means of voice-overs, sometimes coupled with on-camera acting. While celebrities have notoriety and influence, their reputations from their acting careers or choices made in the public eye may also carry certain connotations or excess baggage that is not intended to coincide with the advertiser’s marketing pitch.
Research by the University of Washington and Rice University suggest TV commercials featuring unfamiliar voice-overs are the most effective.
The study determined that when consumers didn’t recognize the voice actor, they were more likely to listen to the message without judging the voice actor or their background.
More Celebs Doing Voice Overs for Ads
While its true that celebrities are being asked to record for several high-profile companies, the vast majority of voice-over work is performed by voice talents who work from professional-grade recording studios.
When audiences heard famous actors performing voice overs in commercials, their opinions of the product were based upon whether they liked the celebrities or disliked them. For example, viewers who liked David Duchovny responded more favorably to brands paired with his voice than did viewers who disliked him. Simply put, if the listener liked David Duchovny already, they also liked the product that his voice was promoting just because it was endorsed by him.
The most successful voice actors secure business because of their individual performance styles, voice types, and work ethic. Companies who rely on celebrities to sell their product based upon the perception of a celebrity are setting the stage to potentially miss the mark and the sale because the products appeal rests with the viewers predetermined opinion of the celebrity and their impression of them both on-camera and off.
Great Voices with No Celebrity Status
Let’s look at the flipside. By hiring unknown or professional voice talents, companies can walk away with voice-overs that will sell and brand effectively without pre-formulated connotations and a Hollywood price tag. Think of it as the “anonymous voice-over security” that celebrity voices actors are unable to provide by virtue of their high-profile careers.
Although they aren’t paid millions of dollars like their celebrity counterparts, their voice-overs are often more effective, believable, and relatable.
Consumers easily identify with the guy-next-door type or the mom-who-does-it-all character. This strategy works because individuals can immediately determine if the character is trustworthy.
By Xavier Paul Cadeau
A voice actor’s take on why great work isn’t linked to name recognition
There’s no denying that celebrity voices have a certain cachet. From the deep, authoritative tones of Morgan Freeman’s voice, to the casual, laid back drawl of Matthew McConaughey’s, celebrity voices come with an expectation and a built-in brand. There is an instant recognition and a clear brand association between certain actors and their sound.
But does this mean that ‘celebrity’ is a requirement to receiving a five star voice acting performance?
In fact, when it comes to finding the right voice to encapsulate your brand, enthrall your audience, and command attention – the ‘it’ factor that a voice actor possesses is not exclusive to the famous.
Great Voiceover Performances Aren’t Only Provided by Celebrities
The celebrity read/celebrity voice over trend has had the unfortunate effect of creating a sense of an ‘untouchable’ voice acting ability, which is only possessed by those with name recognition.
While celebrities certainly offer their own advantages, it’s simply not true that there is a level of voice over craft exclusively for those clients who have hundreds of thousands in the budget.
Although a healthy budget is always preferable, it doesn’t stand to reason that there’s a better voice over happening just because the actor is also a celebrity.
The Craft of Voice Over is What Deserves the Most Attention
Over and over again, the work that stands out in voice over is done by the actors who are simply better at their craft, whether they’re a celebrity or not.
Dynamic work can be done by anyone regardless of name recognition.
As a comparison, working actors in television and film realize that their careers have high and low profile periods. There may be times when people will stop you on the street because they recognize you, followed by period where the public only has a vague memory of you at best.
Voice actors also experience an ebb and flow when it comes to recognition of their work or their sound.
In short, voice over is an industry that demands acting craft commitment – there’s no such thing as reaching a point where you don’t have to work at it any longer.
In my personal experience, I’ve completed corporate narration for a demanding client, who asked that I change my read several times. Thankfully, at the end of the project the client was very pleased with the work.
Later on, during a chat in the control room, they were impressed to discover that I had also appeared as a television actor on one of their favorite shows. At that point, the ‘recognition’ I received was just icing on the cake. It wasn’t a factor in how my performance had gone over. My work would have been the same caliber, even if they had known about my other, more ‘visible’ roles previous.
As a voice actor, I know that what makes the difference is how I approach my craft, and I know that other professional voice actors feel the same. We know that there is more depth and nuance to this line of work than others may recognize, but it’s up to us to keep working to become the best in the industry.
Good News for Voice Actors Focused on Building Their Talent
Despite the obvious allure of upper-tier celebrities, there is a healthy middle ground where clients are actively seeking out committed television and film actors who are also committed voice over artists. Their work simply stands out, but clients also want to be sure that the vocal performance is on point with the actor’s reputation.
However, on the flip side of this coin, this notion that just calling yourself a voice actor is enough to compete with known names and land lucrative work is simply a myth. You absolutely need to put in the time to develop your skill, in order to stand out from the pack.
Especially with the ever expanding base of new talent, more and more, clients are seeking out those who are putting in the work to create the right read.
Those that think that ‘bad copy equals a bad read’ will be left behind. While there’s certainly truth in the effect copy can have on the overall product, there is still an onus on the talent to make suggestions (when appropriate) and always offer the best possible performance.
If celebrities do have an edge, it’s that their years of experience may have taught them that that interpretation and point of view is the name of the game.
Voice over remains an art form, where the presence of talent or lack thereof is painfully obvious. The microphone doesn’t lie.
The bottom line for advertisers: When casting a voice actor, ask yourself “Do they sound real?” It is great to work with a celebrity if they are right for the part, but it isn’t advised to cast just anyone because they are a celebrity. Connect with your audience by working with real people — professional voice actors who will positively convey your message to influence a mass market.
About the Author: Xavier Paul Cadeau
Voiceover artist/Audio Book producer Xavier Paul Cadeau has 25 years of network voiceover experience. Currently the voice of several major brand campaigns, his most recent clients include: the NBA, HBO, MSG Network, Spike TV, and Network TV spots for Wendy’s with famed Basketball coach Jay Bilas.
Follow Xavier on social media or visit his website: