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voice of familiarity

Jack Nicholson
Michael Douglas
Demi Moore
Julia Roberts
The story goes that Jack was offered over a million dollars by a U.S. car company (or more properly, its ad agency) to simply do a voice over for a commercial some years back.  Supposedly he turned it down. Michael Douglas did not (although it seemed Douglas’ fee wasn’t so high).

She was an attractive actress as many were and are on soap operas but when Demi Moore was on General Hospital in the 80’s, what made her stand out more than her looks was her voice.  Keds noticed…so did Oscar Mayer.
And when America On-Line decided to slant their logo, round their typeface and freshen their post-merger image, they called on America’s most famous actress to help build membership. A fairly pregnant Julia Roberts surely covered the twins’ college expenses with her AOL voice over.
But bottom-line, what’s the value to the client paying the voice over bill?
Well, it depends.
And hadn’t commercials long ago become un-cool for A-List celebrities?
Um, sort of.
But what about the everyday announcer who doesn’t act in movies or television?
It’s just a few more swimmers in an already overcrowded pool, I guess.
The Value of Voice

There are no two ways about it; a celebrity endorsement can help build brand awareness…whether the celebrity is in front of the camera or behind the microphone. But for realistic brand and selling impact, the celebrity tie in must make sense…either by cutting through the clutter with a celebrity’s unique qualities (looks, sound, image, reputation, etc.) or by some sort of logical or direct tie-in with a product (a quick example would be a golfer endorsing and pitching golf products and/or apparel).
Does Demi Moore serving as voice talent for a TV spot for Keds women’s sneakers cut through the clutter? It did in my case…I didn’t think of her looks when I heard the spot…but her voice truly cut through the advertising clutter…it’s up to Madison Avenue to tell me whether women bought more sneakers because they “bought” Demi’s voice.
On the other hand, if the concept was that “America’s Sweetheart” would tie-in well voicing spots for America On-Line (America’s Sweetheart/America On-Line…get it?) it was lost on me after the initial “shock” value of having realized Julia Roberts provided the voice over. Somehow it made me think I was already paying too much for AOL’s service and now, if AOL had to pay Julia (a lot, I surmised), I was going to end up paying more for AOL. That didn’t make me want to stay an AOL subscriber. And I have nothing against Julia Roberts.
Are Actors Cool, Uncool or Just Trying to Pay Bill Via Voiceover?
In the old days, celebrities were expected to serve as pitchmen and women and accepted. Heck even newsmen did on-camera ads (Paul Harvey is the modern endorsement exception to what used to be a broadcasting news given).
More recently, it seemed un-cool for celebrities of any stature (fleeting as that stature always is) to appear in commercials…at least in the U.S. Brad Pitt has even done commercials recently….overseas. However, via voice over, celebrities can offer tacit endorsement of a product without actually being directly associated with it…it takes a trained ear to catch some of the relatively well known celebrities who are heard on commercials nowadays.
But hey, not all performers are really well known or always employed. When I hear David Duchovny pitching Pedigree Dog Food or Corbin Bernsen hawking Chryslers I think these are just folks trying to pay the mortgage between acting gigs…I bear no malice towards them for trying to make money.  But does such commercial work gel with their more artistic, less commercial endeavors? Should Fox Mulder really push puppy treats? I’m just asking!
The Poor Slobs Leftover

So what does the future hold for the rest of us (yes, me too) voice over artists in this growing circle of celebrity commercial voices? Well, whether or not we’ll need to wear shades, I see the voice over talents’ future as bright.
If a celebrity has the right voice for a spot then a producer will pick him/her…especially when it’s the voice and not the “celebrity” aspect that won the job. Kathleen Turner could easily become a voice over millionaire and there are fewer voices more recognizable or more listenable than the ageless Lauren Becall even when selling cat food (Fancy Feast) or discount retailers (Tuesday Morning). A great voice is a great voice and should be appreciated and enjoyed as such.
Better news is the new uses of the Internet for communication, marketing and advertising purposes…there’s lots of work for voice over artists who are sharp enough to embrace the opportunities the web presents. Plus, there are always plenty of reasonably well paying jobs around the world for aggressive, talented voice over artists.
Celebrities are taking some jobs because some companies need the extra push a celebrity voice can bring…initially. But whoa to a celebrity voice over that doesn’t positively impact sales and only results in a higher advertising expense lines…then even the most “in the moment” celebrity will become an “Apprentice” (i.e. “You’re Fired!”)