what hath the mail brought?


Just got home from a nice day with the kids – errands, the park, play and only minor meltdowns…mostly theirs. It was a very nice day as we came home from a day of fun.

In the mail was a bubble envelope with a demo CD from a person promoting his voice over services. I wasn’t immediately familiar with him…I meet and talk with a lot of people each week so I was a bit concerned that I had asked for a demo and didn’t remember making the request. I don’t think that’s the case here. But should it be a case of my 40-heimers combined with toddler-induced brain dripping kicking in on me, I’ll apologize now.

Nope, this here was one of them un-so-licited type demos, pardner. And except for what I felt was a sincere attempt to market himself as best as he knew how, I’m afraid this wanna-be voice talent fell woefully short.

I don’t want to embarrass him by outing him (OK, it’s a guy; that cuts the suspects in half). My point is not to hurt or insult…but this screams to be a teaching moment for voice talents everywhere because the mistakes (plural) here in this envelope are textbook on how the underprepared should not present themselves as professional voice over talent until they are really ready.

He was so not ready.

1. The demo sucked
On a positive note, the audio quality on the demo was clear. The vocal tone was not unlistenable. That about wraps it up for the “positives” column.

The negatives include 10 full commercials as individual demos; three of which I bothered to listen to. Like any producer, I pretty much knew all about this guy’s performance abilities and training after the first 15 seconds of the first cut.

Each cut sounded exactly the same. A confectionary spot, a Mother’s Day spot and a car dealer’s spot…the reads, the inflections (when there were some) were about a half step above monotone. Music? Sound effects? No, not for this fella…just a ton of breath sounds (Mrs. audio’connell pointed that out and she never comments on those things). Oh and each cut included a weird clip of some audio not related to the demo spot just before the real demo began.

If this guy was professionally trained (and I don’t think he was) that voice over trainer should be flogged with wet string cheese. So should his demo producer.

2. Branding, branding, where for art thou branding?!
This gentleman has a perfectly fine domain name for voice over; this domain seems to be his brand. That’s a positive.

The fact that there’s no consistent typeface or icon that unifies the domain name/business name on the CD, the CD case, the business card and the mailing envelope says to me he was having fun with Microsoft Word Art in the same way a first grader might in a computer 101 class. It looked amateurish which matched perfectly with his demo.

Maybe he meant to have a microphone as his logo. Among all the collateral he included, I counted three, no four different microphone types pictured with clear outlines of where they were cut and pasted. (Sigh!)

This is basic blocking and tackling here folks and this fella clearly never made it to a team practice. I’ll let pass the fact that he spelled my company’s name incorrectly in two spots on the envelope. I suppose he could have repaired that damage in his customized cover letter to me, had he included one.

And the hits just keep on coming…

3. Making claims he can’t back up
This voice talent who sent me this unsolicited kit claims within it that he “writes great ad copy” in addition to his “voice talent”. Well let’s put that to the test, shall we?

Which would you select as the most successful tag line if forced to choose?

• “Captivate – Grab Your Audience”

• “A Unique Voice for Unique Times”

• “Get the Attention You Need Now”

Aw heck, let’s live on the edge and just throw the whole mess in as tag lines/slogans. That’s problem number 1. A “great ad copy” writer understands that there has to be one key, salient marketing message the reader or listener needs to take away from an ad or collateral piece.

Now maybe this part is more subjective than objective but, see, I either want to “captivate” or “grab” my audience since these two words pretty much mean the same thing…a few strong words usually have a greater impact than a lot of mediocre words.

“A Unique Voice for Unique Times”. Well, we’re in a recession so does this mean his voice matches the economic climate (a downer) or that he’s the voice for the new poor?

As harsh as all this may sound in its critique, this is how decision makers – the ones that don’t immediately trash a whole kit like this – will think about this person’s voice and brand and they are right!

Advertising, marketing and creative directors and producers notice this stuff. They are the final judges and no talent can afford to fail in any of these categories because there are so many quality voice talents who DO train, who DO produce a listenable demo and who DO create a sharp (not necessarily expensive) look and feel (full of well written copy) with their collateral that will catch the ear and eye of key decision makers.

It’s absolutely OK to have a desire and dream to pursue a voice over career but that chase does not start with a slapped together CD featuring poor, clearly untrained performance wrapped in the marketing equivalent of the Sunday comics!

Pretend for a minute you owned a business – that wasn’t voice over related – and your business’ expensive and important “make or break” marketing campaign required professional audio. Under those circumstances, who would you rather hire: just a “voice” or a voice over professional?

We all make mistakes, me too. Perfection is tough but very good is attainable.

Based on what I saw and heard today in this package, this poor fella has his work cut out for him. It’s not insurmountable but it won’t be easy either. Nothing worth doing ever is, I guess.

2 Responses to “what hath the mail brought?”

  1. I can completely relate, Peter. I am constantly getting emails from other VO people advertising their services. Many of them are in poorly-worded English (and not just the international folks), with NO web site link included. It’s hard to fathom how ANYONE could expect to be taken seriously without a web site. I realize that it’s a challenge to build a web site…but just CALLING yourself a voice talent says absolutely nothing about your level of talent or how you could be of service to someone.

  2. Chuck:

    You hit the nail on the head: “…just CALLING yourself a voice talent says absolutely nothing about your level of talent or how you could be of service to someone.”

    I hope people heed your words. Thanks for visiting.

    Best always,
    – Peter