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How to cast the best voiceover for your radio ad

How to cast the best voiceover for your radio ad

By Emma Clarke, a leading voiceover artiste whose credits include being one of the London Underground’s 'Mind the Gap' voices.

Cast the wrong voiceover for your ad and you’ll end up believing that radio advertising is rubbish.

It’s like choosing the wrong font or the wrong image for a visual ad – imagine Fortnum & Mason using Comic Sans and a cartoon of someone shooting a pheasant - it undermines the brand values you’re meant to be symbolising, confuses the listener and ends up being a right dog’s breakfast.

So here are five top tips to help you cast the right voice for the right product, in the right ad…

1. Make sure your brand values are matched by the vocal qualities of the artist you’re thinking of booking

Sophisticated, sassy style reads probably aren’t the enclave of Jim Bowen, for instance.  It might sound ridiculously obvious but be sure the voice sitting in the booth can actually deliver the flavour you’re after.

Decide if you want a regional accent, Estuary English or high-brow Received Pronunciation on your ad.  Accents used on UK commercials, rightly or wrongly, still carry class-based prejudices, expectations and social stereotypes, so make sure the class suggested by the voiceover is in sync with your client’s ideal consumer.

If you’ve hired someone with a regional accent, be sure their accent enhances your brand.  If you want RP, don’t hire someone known for their guttural regionality.

2. Only use a celebrity voice if they’re used to voicing

Don’t cast a celeb because they’ve got a nice voice…or are the kind of person with whom you’d like to share a naked jacuzzi.  Having a nice voice and being a stunner are useless assets if the person voicing can’t deliver a script for toffee.

Above all, don’t cast a celeb because you want to get in the ‘Spotted’ section of ‘Heat’ magazine.

3.  Crucially, choose a voiceover who understands direction

Giving direction can be tricky; sometimes you won’t know what you want until you hear it…but the odds are you’ll know what you definitely don’t want.

Guiding the voice to the finished take can be a rocky road and working with a voice who takes direction well is integral to that journey.

For instance, there’s a subtle but fundamental difference between a voice delivering copy in a way that suggests a solution to the listener, reflects pride in your brand’s rich heritage, demands a hard-hitting call-to-action, implies simmering sexuality, or conveys a level of quality and reliability that requires no further explanation.

To achieve this, you need a voiceover who listens (to themselves and their producer) as well as they can talk.  And that’s a skill that’s pretty tricky to find.

Bear in mind that some celebrities are (notoriously) uncomfortable with taking direction…either because they don’t understand the subtlety of ad direction or because they don’t want to be told how to do their job.  So choose someone with an agreeable ego…

4. Crucially, you need a voiceover who can voice an ad to time.

It’s no good having a 30 second ad that’s coming in at a leisurely 35 seconds…  For this, you need a really experienced voiceover who instinctively knows when 30 seconds is up, and can read accurately to 0.2 of a second, if required.

Sounds impossible?  Ask any jobbing voiceover to prove it.

But before you start recording, make sure you’ve not over-written the script.  Trying to cram too many words into too small a space will never work well.

5.  If your script involves a sketch before the straight announcer bit, choose someone who can act.  You don’t want your finely honed words butchered by someone who sounds about as convincing as a political manifesto…   

Above all, you need a voiceover you can trust to deliver audio that’ll satisfy you, your client and ultimately, the consumer.

It’s always handy to use a voice who’s good at managing the potentially hazardous meeting of client, creative, account manager and voiceover. Hiring a gobby prima donna is something best avoided.

And generally, that means hiring someone who’s experienced enough to realise they’re there to read a marketing message and won’t hijack the session just to hear themselves talk in their voluminous, beautiful yet unstoppable voice!

Hear Emma's showreel

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