How to choose the right Voice Over Artist for your campaign
You’re a marketing professional, video maker or production manager. You need a Voice Over Artist or Voice Actor for your radio or television commercial, corporate or promotional video or video game.
Where do you start?
Different projects will require a different voice. Different skills. Different levels of experience.
Male or female – there’s often a dilemma right there. Age. Ability to convey emotion with strong acting skills. Comedy timing. Able to take on a role of an animated, even non-human, character. Ability to be natural, engaging and convincing.
And that’s just the voice itself.
When choosing a Voice Over Artist, there’s lots of other factors too.
As a Voice Over Professional with many years’ experience of a wide range of projects, I’ve experienced first-hand the challenge my clients face in getting the right artist for the role. This decision can make or break a campaign. So here’s how to approach it.
Stage 1 – Background and preparation
- Establish the purpose of the Voice Over and outcome you need.
Before you even start looking for the VOA, you need to know what you want to achieve. Is the purpose of your campaign to engage an audience? Sell products? Explain a concept? Entertain? Be controversial and thought-provoking?
- Establish your target audience.
Is it predominantly male or female? Older or younger demographic? Affluent looking for high end, niche products? What are the selling points this target audience will respond to?
- Consider your company brand.
What is the tone, feel and culture of your business? Is it corporate? Quirky, creative and edgy? Innovative and ambitious?
- Be open and don’t fall back on stereotypes.
It’s not always men who buy cars. It’s not only women who are interested in fashion. It’s not only young people who are passionate about fitness and exercise. These things should be obvious, but there are still a lot of stereotypes used in Voice Over choice, and this can harm, not enhance, your campaign.
Stage 2 – Choosing a voice
Armed with the information above, you will be in a better position to select the type of voice that will work for your campaign. But there’s still a way to go…
- Male or female.
At first this may seem obvious. But is it? For example, a video for a wedding DJ. It will likely be the bride making the decisions. Is she likely to engage with another female voice? Or respond better to a male voice, given the DJ is male. It may need a focus group or a survey with a sample of the target audience to be sure. Also, trends change. Car adverts used to always feature male voices, but the trend is moving towards female voices. Sometimes doing the unexpected is more likely to have an impact. Or where sensitivity and empathy is needed, picking the right gender will be central to the outcome of the campaign e.g. in the case of a breast cancer awareness campaign.
- Acting ability and voice versatility.
A good Voice Actor should be able to take on a number of roles. Obviously as a Female Voiceover Artist, I can’t play a man. But I can play boys and girls of different ages (within reason). Take on different characters. Do selected accents. Perform animation and comedy. These are all distinct skills, which come from a professional acting background. Depending on the purpose and nature of your campaign, the acting ability and flexibility in the voice of the artist you choose may be crucial. Explore the background and skillset of VOAs you consider, to ensure they have the acting skills you need, as well as request a custom sample.
Stage 3 – Finding the right Voice Over Professional
Once you’ve established the type of voice you need for your campaign, you’ll have narrowed the search to an extent. However, for a smooth and seamless process and campaign success, you’ll need not just the right voice, but professionalism and excellent service behind that voice. Here’s just some of the things to look for.
- Recording studio and quality of equipment.
Being a professional Voice Over Artist is more than just having a good voice and a microphone. Making a voice recording a success also relies on the quality of the equipment used. For example, I operate from a fully sound proofed, professional broadcast recording studio with ISDN, Source Connect Pro, SCNow and Skype facilities all built into the studio. For clear, high quality sound and production, it’s important to use a VOA who has invested in the very best equipment.
- Editing and production skills.
Recording the voice is the first part of the process. Editing and producing the final version to perfection completes it. If a Voice Over Artist can provide this service to a high specification, you’ll save time and with many campaigns operating against tight deadlines, this can be a real benefit.
- Proactivity and initiative.
In my experience, many scripts need work – after they’ve been sent to the VOA. Often scripts read well on paper, but a talented and experienced can straight away identify issues or areas for improvement. For example, it may be unrealistic to perform in the time requested. Sentences may be too long or not work when spoken. The message may be confused. The concept may be too stereotypical or controversial. You’ll find that a VOA willing to challenge and advise on the script at the outset could save you time in re-recording, re-writing or even going back to the drawing board if a campaign doesn’t work.
- Interpretative skills and wide-ranging project experience.
Absolutely essential to a campaign or video’s success is the ability of the Voice Over Artist to understand the brief, the business, the target audience and the objective of the campaign. They will need to have the versatility, creativity and talent to bring into their voice that spark and interpretation to bring the message or character to life. They may need to be serious and corporate. Sassy and sexy. Interpret and convey humour with expert timing. Do accents or reflect different ages. Check the experience of a Voice Over Artist to see how many roles, industries and types of work they’ve undertaken, so you’re sure they have the capability to deliver your VO to the highest quality possible.
- Track record.
Awards, case studies, testimonials and previous clients will all help build a picture of the quality and talent of the Voice Over Artist. Have they worked with big brand names? Do their clients point to not just the quality of their voice, but their editing, production and overall personal service? Have they any prestigious awards and accolades? Are they professionally trained and members of professional voiceover industry organisations such as Equity, SAG-AFTRA, WoVO, TAG or TIGA?
There’s more to a voiceover than the voice. Make sure you find the full package of service and talent that will make your campaign a success.
Award-winning Posy Brewer is a British female Voice Over Artist and Actor with her own broadcast studio with ISDN, Source Connect Pro, SCNow and Skype facilities. Providing voices and voiceovers for TV & Radio Commercials, promos, online and presentation videos, telephone on hold messages, video games, animation, Voice of God and much more.