Over the years I have written some commercials to be voiced by Comedians, Actors, Politicians, ‘Personalities’ (read that as Reality wannabees or ‘Z’ grade celebrities), and Sports Stars.
I am not talking about the professionals who do this on a daily basis – but people who have never done radio commercials before – and are often being paid ridiculous amount of money to appear in one.
So: Who, How and Why did we get the best results from a Celebrity Voice?
It was always a bit of a process, trial and error, sometime stumbling on egos and tripping over common words (dealing with lisps and other pronunciation problems) – but eventually most of the spots went to air and delivered for clients (in one case I did have a Celebrity Voice come in to record for an hour and produce a commercial that was so bad it was deemed unusable – we still had to pay them for their time though – if only I had known how to deal with them to get the best results – see below)
Next time you have a client who wants to use a specific voice you can say… “Well, we could do that, but it will involve us doing…” you will be able to guide your client through what is going to happen – and if they agree, then you will be able to guide the Celebrity Voice talent too, to deliver for your client.
I will share with you along the way a 6 step guide to deal with the Celebrity Voice (in fact from now on I will just use the term ‘Celebrity Voice’ as a catch all, rather than singling out individual types – okay?)
The Lure of the Celebrity Voice… or… Why Clients Want To Spend Time With Celebrities!
Using a celebrity voice in your radio ad can add a touch of glamour and familiarity to your campaign, making it more memorable and engaging for your target audience. For example if you have access to a celebrity voice who played a well known character – such as a lawyer – and you are doing a commercial for a law firm, then that will work in your favour as people will connect the voice to the role and add more gravitas to the clients business.
However, working with famous voices is not without its challenges. In this section, we discuss the pros and cons of using Celebrity Voices in radio copywriting.
Familiarity: People tend to pay more attention to ads featuring a voice they recognize, as it cuts through the noise and creates an emotional connection with the listener. This is a short cut that I wish we had with every voice, but we don’t so if you can cash in on it – do it!
Mass appeal: Celebrities often have a large following, which can help raise awareness and generate buzz around your product or service. They may choose to share what they are doing on social media (sometimes at an extra cost) so that will help your client in the long run. Plus their popularity will have a halo effect on the business too – if your commercial script and production do them justice.
Expertise: Some celebrities have experience in voice acting or performing, making them well-suited to deliver a compelling performance in your ad. They know the tone that works for them to get the best delivery – listen to them, acknowledge that fact and write to it.
The Client: They get bragging rights for using a celebrity voice, from photos with them in the studio to “Look who I GOT TO RECORD MY COMMERCIAL!” Clients love spending time with celebrities – don’t they just!
Cost: The cost of hiring a celebrity voice can be expensive – and I do mean “EXPENSIVE”, and may not always guarantee a return on investment. Plus you may also have the added cost of either getting the Celebrity to the studio to record, how much time the recording will take, the ‘creative’ decisions that they make, etc… it all adds up to time and costs that you just may not have available.
Risk: Associating your brand with a particular celebrity may have unintended consequences if their reputation takes a hit. From someone suddenly being ‘cancelled’ to being dropped from their team or main forum where their celebrity is in – it does come with risk. They also tend to NOT be like the character or personality that they are known for – asking them to say a line 20 times to get the best delivery does not go down well with some people, and others do not take direction well.
Distracting: A famous voice can sometimes overshadow your brand message, causing listeners to focus more on the celebrity than on the product or service being advertised. This happens a LOT when you use celebrity voices in radio ads – people are so shocked that it is X Celebrity – they don’t listen to the content of the ads and then wonder “who was that for?”
Choosing the right celebrity voice:
To ensure you get the most out of your celebrity voiceover, consider the following factors, discuss them with the client who is footing the bill and see if they are willing to commit to the investment, or that they happen to ‘know them’ this is not a good enough reason to get them to voice the commercial – they must be:
Relevant: The voice should be relevant to your target audience and resonate with them on an emotional level. As I said before, if they have played a lawyer in a TV show or Movie, AND are willing to voice an ad for a lawyer then people will understand the relevance. If they are a sports star who has never needed a lawyer, why would they voice a radio commercial for a lawyer?
Tone and style: The celebrity’s voice should match the tone and style of your brand, product, or service. If you have a fun business, but the celebrity voice is known for serious work – then the tone won’t match up with what you are trying to achieve – but it might if you play with the script and the Celebrity is willing to go along with a silly script – but they might not. Think seriously about the tone and style – will it work for the celebrity?
Availability: Make sure the celebrity is available for recording sessions and willing to work within your budget. This is perhaps THE MOST important thing to consider as it will affect the delivery of your commercial in so many ways. I have had a Celebrity Voice come into the studio as they had 15 minutes free in their schedule – they read the script twice through perfectly – done and dusted. Others who wanted to spend hours recording it, and they could only fit us into their schedule in 3 months time when they were back from an event… which when they came in to record – and they had a husky voice as a result of playing for 3 months solid – Find out their availability before committing – it makes a HUGE difference to the end result.
Agreement: They also have to agree to you doing what you want to do, it’s no good them turning up to a recording session and then saying “I’m not saying that!” They need to know ahead of time what it is that they are going to say, why, and how… this is where my 6 step guide to dealing with celebrities may come in handy…
My 6 Step Guide to Dealing With Celebrity Voices:
THE SCRIPT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!
You could start your script off with the Celebrity Voice saying who they are and why they are here – or you could start the commercial in the middle of the action, half way through a story, or have them talk about a product or service, no matter what you do – your script is the most important thing to get right – before they come into the studio. They need to see it at least a week before they come in and give clearance for it – they may even have some ideas before hand to make it better – ALWAYS listen to this – and make changes if you need to.
Step 1: Celebrity Voice at the Studio
ALWAYS treat the Celebrity Voice with respect, be cognisant of their time – if they have given you half an hour to do this in, then don’t take a minute past that time limit – you don’t need to fall over them with praise and being a fan – be professional – be on time yourself, and have everything ready to go BEFORE they get there. There is nothing worse than them arriving and you are still setting up.
When directing them, be professional – be direct, tell them exactly what you want and why – and if they have difficulty saying a line – be available as the copywriter to help them to come up with an alternative that will work for them and for the client. Remember that the script that has already been agreed to is king – and the client is the one paying so you want to make sure you are doing the right thing by your client. Below this I have a special section on directing the Celebrity Voice talent.
When done – you can play them a rough cut (if you have time) and see if they are happy with the work they have done – then thank them and escort them out of the building – why? Because co-workers will always try to cash in and get time with the Celebrity – that’s not why they are there – and it is their call if they stop and talk, take selfies, pop in to a show to say hello to listeners, etc. You do not own their time at this point – you are acting on behalf of their agent, and trying to get them on to their next gig.
Step 2: With the Script – Set the stage
Create a vivid mental picture for the listener by describing the setting of your ad.
OR, Use music/sound effects and descriptive language to immerse your audience in the story.
No matter what you do – with a Celebrity Voice especially you need to set the scene in your commercial fast – don’t waste time – get to the point. The same should be said of every single commercial that you write already – but I thought it needed saying here again.
Step 3: Establish a clear message
Your Celebrity Voiced radio ad should have a clear and concise message that communicates the benefits of your product or service quickly. Avoid using jargon or complex language that may confuse listeners, or that the Celebrity doesn’t understand. Establish their credentials if you have to (that’s their reason for doing the ad) or justify it by creating…
Step 4: Craft memorable dialogue
Dialogue is crucial in radio copywriting. Dialogue with a Celebrity Voice – DOUBLEY SO – Write conversational, engaging dialogue that feels natural and captures the essence of your brand, and who they are. If you have the client talking to the Celebrity Voice then the dialogue NEEDS to be real – not faked and ‘read from the script’ allow for ad libs and genuine conversation to occur. See below for more notes on a conversational or monologue style Celebrity Voiced commercial. Remember that you want the lines to be short, sharp and to the point and to also…
Step 5: Include a strong call to action (CTA)
Having a clear CTA is essential in Celebrity Radio radio ads, as it encourages listeners to take action. Make your CTA clear, specific, and persuasive, with the Celebrity either telling you to speak to someone in particular (a personal recommendation always works well in this circumstance) or to contact the client in store – just don’t have your Celebrity Voice say “go to their website” because that’s not a recommendation that will get any more hits on their site – UNLESS: you have filmed the commercial making and include that on the site to get people to find out how much fun they had – the Celebrity MUST agree to this and will need to be compensated for doing it.
Step 6: Keep it short and sweet
Celebrity Radio ads are just the same as every other radio ad – typically 30-60 seconds long, so make every word counts (just because they are a celebrity doesn’t mean that their commercial can run longer! Traffic will still have to schedule it amongst every other commercial so your script needs to be TIGHT). You know the drill as a copywriter – Be concise and focused in your script, avoiding unnecessary details or fluff. But if you have enough content to make another commercial, or a series – then do it – but remember that the Celebrity Voice will have to be compensated for it.
How to get the PERFECT Voiceover: Tips for Casting and Directing Celebrity Talent
Casting: Finding the right voice
You might be lucky and have access to an agent’s website which contains samples of Celebrity Voices that you can listen to and see how they sound, sometimes not – and you have to base your script upon what you already know or can find of them online.
But if you have to cast the net wide enough to find the right voice talent, consider the following:
Relevance: Ensure the celebrity is relevant to your target audience and has a voice that will resonate with them. See above, as this is still vitally important and not enough clients think this through.
Versatility: Choose a voice that can adapt to different tones and styles, and is capable of delivering a convincing performance.
Budget: Be realistic about your budget and find a celebrity who is willing to work within your means. Some voices in Australia will do a script for as little as $300, others for $3,000, and others for over $10,000 for a 30 second spot – that can only run for 3 months – if you want to run it past that you need to pay that fee again – keep that in mind when talking to your client about the commitment that they are making to using a Celebrity Voice.
Directing: Getting the best performance from a Celebrity Voice
To get the best performance from your celebrity voice talent, keep the following tips in mind:
They are human: They are just like you and I, they will need water, a toilet break, time to get their head together and a couple of takes to be done to get it right – don’t loose your cool – treat them like they are ‘special’, as in – just like every other voice talent you have in the booth, i.e.: Always be professional!
Provide clear direction: Give the voice talent specific instructions on the tone, style, and delivery you want for your ad. There is nothing worse than having them in the booth, and everyone is sitting around waiting for the magic to happen. Give them a script, standing them in front of a microphone and expecting them to deliver is not good enough. EVER!
Encourage collaboration: Allow the celebrity to provide input and suggestions and be open to their ideas. Record different versions if you have to , but make sure you have what is in your script – first, then allow time to do different takes.
Be patient: Keep in mind that voice acting may not be the celebrity’s primary skill, so be patient and work together to achieve the desired result. Sometimes it can be frustrating, and annoying – but your client is the one who wanted the Celebrity Voice – do it for them.
How to Make Your Celebrity Voiced Ad Stand Out…
Be innovative: Create a scene, a story or a reason for why they are voicing the commercial. Experiment with unconventional formats, storytelling techniques, or sound design to create a unique and memorable ad. Don’t just have them say “This is <NAME> for <CLIENTS NAME> and I’m here to talk to you about XYZ” boring!
Target the right audience: Tailor your ad to appeal to your specific target audience, and choose the right radio station or platform to reach them. It’s no good having an older Celebrity Voice making a commercial for a young current fashion label in town – unless there is a definite link. You need to make sure that you can link your Celebrity Voice to the business with good reason.
Leverage the power of humour: A well-executed, funny radio ad can be incredibly memorable and engaging for listeners. Having a Celebrity Voice do a commercial about something that is left of centre of their normal sphere will make the ad stand out – maybe for the wrong reason – unless you add humour to it. Be careful – make sure the humour matches the celebrity – or they won’t be happy.
Another Way is to Master Monologues and Dialogues with a Celebrity Voice…
Striking a balance between monologues and dialogues with a Celebrity Voice can be difficult. Especially (and yes I am pointing at a specific group) Sports personalities are not usually known for their voice acting abilities – you need to coach them to get the best results.
Here are some tips to help you achieve this:
Keep it conversational: Write dialogue that feels natural and true-to-life, and avoid overly scripted or stilted language. You want it to sound like it really is them giving their opinion, telling their story and saying what they want to say.
Use monologues strategically: Monologues can be effective for conveying important information or setting the scene, but do not overuse them with a Celebrity Voice – why? Because so many of your other commercials are mostly monologues – look at what you produce and play on your station – if they are mostly monologue commercials – do a conversational script – if they are mostly conversational- do a monologue.
Engage the listener: Write a script that encourages listeners to respond and interact with your ad, making them more likely to remember and act on your message. This rule should be the same with all of your commercials, but with a Celebrity Voice script – doubly so!
– AND THAT’S IT FOR TODAY –
Writing radio ads for celebrity voices can be a challenging yet rewarding process for both you, and the client, when it works, when you have the right script that has been written for the right person to read.
By following the above tips in this post, you can create engaging, memorable, and effective radio commercials that resonate with your target audience and deliver results for your clients business, by adding some ‘celebrity’ to your ads.
Armed with these insights and tips, you’re now ready to tackle your next radio commercial script for a Celebrity Voice and create a radio commercial that will truly stand out.
And remember, it’s not just about having a famous voice in your commercial; it’s about crafting a message that captivates, engages, and ultimately converts your listener into a loyal customer for your clients business – if your commercial doesn’t do that – then it’s not worth doing.
On a final note – don’t use celebrity voice impersonators (or AI versions of celebrity voices, or celebrity voice changing software) as it can land you in some serious trouble with the celebrities legal team hitting you and the client with a massive court case and fine. Go with the real Celebrity Voice – it may be more expensive in the short term, but in the long run your client will be better off for it.