Celebrity voices are not new in commercial voice-over. Brands have been using celebrities to endorse their products for the longest time, and these so-called celebrities are everywhere.
There are famous voices (Morgan Freeman and Beyonce) that people recognize without having to see the speaker’s face. And then there are the not so famous celebrity voices that you swear you’ve heard before but can’t quite put a finger on.
The use of celebrity voices in commercial voice-over is tricky. Using a well-recognized voice can boost the trustworthiness of your brand as well as expose your product to a wider audience. But if the celebrity voice is disliked, unprofessional or unrecognizable, the results could negatively affect your image.
Getting the right celebrity voice for your brand really depends on what your goals are, and of course, your budget, but it might not be as expensive as you think. Celebrities are people too and their voices need the same training and guidance given to professional voice talents.
But if hiring a famous voice has (more or less) the same effect on your campaign as hiring a regular voice-actor, is there any point in using the celebrity at all?
Brands believe that more people listen (and respond) to a commercial if it is voiced by a celebrity as opposed to an anonymous voice actor, and they’re not wrong.
This post was updated in May 2021
Celebrity Voices for Commercial Voice-over: Pros
The best advantage of using celebrity voices is that they come with an audience. Celebrities usually have a mass following that is just a tweet away. Their recognizable voices help create awareness around a company’s products and even increase sales.
Here are more reasons why we love famous voices in commercial voice-over:
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People are exposed to thousands of ads every day. A familiar voice cuts through the noise and creates an emotional connection with the audience.
Familiarity equals trust, and trust equals sales.
Celebrity Film Actors Don’t Need Much Training in Voice-over…But
If your chosen celebrity is a film actor, it might be easier for them to adapt to voice acting techniques. This leads to shorter recording times and cheaper rates. However, just because a celebrity is good at acting doesn’t mean they will excel at voice-overs. Voice acting doesn’t rely on facial expressions, so all the emotion that would have been conveyed through body movements has to be packed into the voice.
Both radio and TV advertising can accommodate celebrity voices, and even if the person is not super famous, some argue that listeners can still identify their voice on a subconscious level.
Just make sure to guide your voice talent (even if they’re a screen actor) through their first few voice-over scripts for the best results.
Celebrity Voices in Translation
Local celebrity voices can help brands translate content and establish credibility in foreign markets. When selling to completely new countries, using famous and familiar voices is the easiest way to get people excited about a new product.
Cons of Using Famous Voices
Celebrity voices are sometimes overrated. Why?
Because the best commercial voice-overs don’t rely on voice, they rely on intent.
If your company is holding a major sales event, you need to create an ad that sounds enthusiastic, urgent, punchy and time-limited. It makes no difference whether you use a regular voice-actor or a celebrity because both will have the same delivery.
The appeal surrounding the use of celebrity voices in commercial voice-over only goes so deep. A famous voice doesn’t make up for a bad voice-over script, and neither can it cover up the incompetence of a bad voice actor.
A celebrity voice is not a magic wand that can turn bad advertising into good advertising. It’s one thing for your audience to recognize the celebrity you use for your voice-over, it’s an entirely different thing for these listeners to engage with your brand because of it.
Celebrities help in raising awareness for your brand, but be prepared for your audience to question their emotional genuineness and motivation for promoting your products.
Besides, celebrities often end up building their brands and not your own.
It’s Risky to Use Famous Voices
You know what they say: if the deal is too good, think twice. There’s a lot to consider with celebrity voices. They come with an audience, but this audience might not relate to your brand. In 2011, Beyonce was part of the Let’s Move campaign to fight child obesity. In 2012, she was promoting Pepsi, a sugary drink that disagrees with her previous image.
Working with celebrity voices means connecting your brand to something you can’t control. Celebrities are people too, and using their voices means associating your business with their (sometimes shaky) image.
It doesn’t take much to offend people in today’s connected world. Your brand suffers if, for instance, you wanted to expand your business into Iraq and the celebrity that voices your campaigns sends out a negative tweet about the country. If you’re using a famous athlete’s voice and they get benched, your brand will fall with them.
A celebrity’s audience means nothing if the said celebrity stops engaging with them.
Famous Voices Distract from the Message
Voice-overs that use unrecognizable voices have been said to create a more complete sense of immersion for the audience. Famous voices tend to occupy the room a little too much. If the voice is too recognizable, you run the risk of losing your brand image.
You can use a celebrity, but their voice shouldn’t be the only thing your listeners take away from your commercial.
If the celebrity voice does not fit your brand, it can distract the audience instead of communicating with them. The best remedy for this is to train your voice actor well, whether famous or not, so that their voice perfectly embodies your brand.
How to Leverage Celebrity Voices for your Brand
Voice acting is about striking the right creative tone. If the actor happens to be famous, that’s a plus because it can get your brand noticed.
It’s a slippery slope because not all famous people can serve as brand voices, and even when they do, it’s not clear that their fame will help achieve the desired goals.
You want people to listen to your commercial voice-over and be like, “No way! That’s Morgan Freeman.” But more than that, you want them to remember what the celebrity was selling; your brand. It can be hard to find a balance between a celebrity’s personal brand and your own.
Here are several ways you can ensure that your business always benefits from using celebrity voices:
Crafting your commercial voice-over around a single voice is risky. There are a lot of things to consider when choosing voice talents for a project. The same criteria should apply when choosing a celebrity voice – consider accent, gender, and age. Can your chosen voice truly relate to your market? Can this voice speak to them and not at them?
Depending on the target demographic, you can use more than one celebrity to voice your brand, but remember this:
A Famous Voice Can Only Do So Much
If your commercial voice-over script is garbage, don’t try to save it with a famous voice. It’s cheaper and faster to write a better script.
Overall, you want to be careful when using celebrity voice-over because famous or not, nobody wants to hear an untrained narrator sell something to them. The quality of the voice should come first, otherwise, you’ll spend more time recording over all the uhs and ums.
How to Choose the Right Celebrity Voice for your Commercial Voice-over
Start with your brand guidelines.
What is the voice of your company? Whether it is humorous, warm or strong, find a celebrity voice that can convey the same tone. You want the person voicing your brand to sound believable. Your audience needs an expert to tell them why they should buy your product, so make sure the celebrity behind your voice-over has a full understanding of your brand and its goals.
You also want a voice that represents who you are, so in as much as the celebrity’s personality matters, their voice should not overwhelm the brand image.
This means that if you need a wacky voice for your children’s commercial, don’t forego this just because a celebrity comes along. Famous or not, they should be able to voice your brand according to your guidelines.
Celebrity voices are judged based on two criteria; celebrity and voice.
When it comes to choosing the celebrity:
- Do they understand the brand?
- Does your audience like them?
- Will their voice promote your brand more than their own?
- Have they worked with your competition before?
- Are they over-exposed (endorsing multiple brands at once)?
When it comes to judging their voice;
- Does it have the right tone?
- Is it recognizable?
One more thing: always have a crisis plan in place.
Don’t let it surprise you when the celebrity you work with gets arrested or gets into a feud that could damage your brand. Celebrities are unpredictable, and unless you are completely sure they can be trusted, always have a plan to redeem your reputation if it ever comes to it.
The use of celebrity voices in commercial voice-over is not an exact science. It’s highly unlikely that people will go out and buy your products just because a celebrity said they should. However, when listeners hear a familiar voice, they will be more attentive to the commercial.
A recognizable voice is great for capturing the attention of your audience, but you don’t need a celebrity to establish the trust and authority of your brand. An experienced non-famous voice can be just as good for your commercial voice-over.
Great commercial voice-over is about the performance. The voice-actor only needs to learn the brand and convey its tone in the voice-over; they don’t have to be a celebrity.
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