Using Brand Names in Your Voice Over Demo?
If you’re using brand names such as McDonald’s, Ford, or Pepsi and you actually didn’t record for them officially, read this post.
David Bourgeois at Voice Coaches commented on my previous post about demo critiques and raised a very important point; one that could save you from bearing the nuisance of legal activity!
Unless you are the voice of an official campaign, it may be safer to stick to fictitious company names or leave the product and or company name out altogether.
I’d like to introduce the VOX Daily community to David Bourgeois, President and Creative Director of VoiceCoaches.com. Over the past couple of months, David has become a fan of VOX Daily, commenting on posts that interest him with vigor, veracity and a unique perspective on the industry.
One such comment (the one that inspired this article) recently was posted to an article I wrote earlier today about the critiquing of voice over demos. One of the points David highlighted in his comment was about the use of national brand names and trademarks in voice over demos. His point of view? This is what David’s comment on my previous post was. I think it would do everyone, particularly beginners a dose of good if you take everything David said in this comment (and in general) to heart:
One other area I want to address is the unauthorized use of national brands and product names on a demo. Regardless of the fact that a lot of people do this and, worse yet, many of those teaching in our field suggest doing this, this practice is a pretty bad idea.
Can you use a brand name in your voice over demo?
First off, though it’s a grey area, you technically can’t use and replicate a trademarked brand name without permission from those who own the trademark. Now in reality, I wouldn’t imagine Pepsi is going to pursue legal action against you for making up a fake Pepsi spot on your demo, but they could.
Here is the more important problem. By using well-known national brands on a demo, you are misrepresenting yourself as a professional. Voice actors, even at the highest national level don’t often have faces or names attached to them like actors in visual media do. So if I get a demo with a Ford truck spot on it, am I to assume the voice actor on that demo did that spot? Further more if I throw that demo in with a few others to present to a client, will the client know the difference. Worse yet, will the client feel I am misrepresenting the talent to them?
At our studios we have a very simple solution to this. Demos that arrive with fake national scripts for products or companies that are currently on the market are discarded. I just met with an ad group and many agency reps echoed this.
Rather than misrepresenting yourself, develop your own copy, or work with a friend who can help. At the very least change the national brand names in the scripts you read!David Bourgeois
There are many folks out there who will make a number of excuses for this, but, at the end of the day, using national brands on a demo makes it very hard for those doing the hiring and casting to make accurate decisions… unless you really did do the Pepsi spot!
David Bourgeois and the crew at VoiceCoaches.com are right!
When you can do so, it is in your best interest to take the “Better to be safe than sorry” approach. As David intimated, if you record and mention the name of a brand that you didn’t actually do voice work for, you could get in hot water with the courts.
Although it is unlikely that a company the size of Pepsi will chase a person down for using their name in this way, they very well could.
To add to David’s thoughts, I wonder if the voice actor who had actually been hired to voice a particular spot that had been incorporated by other talents in their demos would have a right to ask that they remove the piece from the demo so as to prevent confusion, particularly if they say that they are the voice of “ABC” campaign and others are voicing the same copy.
Technically, that could do some damage to their reputation if a client wants to hire the Pepsi voice but then backs out because they can’t find the real voice actor or they think that the voice actors who are recording that material (illegally) are the actual voice and the true talent loses work over it.
This is one of the reasons why our team at Voices produced the Voice Over Script Collection (original and public domain narration) and the Commercial Scripts for Radio and Television Ads (original works). All of the commercials are free of brand names (all fictitious) and are royalty-free for you to use so as not to have to worry about having problems with corporations or other voice actors.
Could voice actors along with the companies they record authentic material for big name clients effectively take their own peers to court over some name dropping in a voice over demo using the copy they recorded?
Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
Share them here and let’s get this conversation rolling!