The Voice over business is constantly changing. How casters seek their talent, the way talent promote themselves to potential clients, trends in the type of voice that is popular. Some things change rapidly (Casters needing talent with Home studios for example), while others change more slowly (Cultural expectations and Bias). When considering how to market your talent, who to market to, what genre to focus on and what platforms to use, there are many aspects to consider.
Many of you are aware that my branding focuses of the fact that I am British. Born initially of naivety, ‘The British Voice,’ clearly describes what I do. But more than that it inserts my business directly into the unconscious bias present in so much of society. There is an enormous amount of research out there delving into why we think in certain ways. Advertising uses this to effectively promote products. (There is a reason the F150 truck Adverts, and the Jaguar Adverts sound the way they do!)
In the UK, a ‘Northern’ accent is often perceived as having a closer connection to mass market purchasing power than a ‘Southern’ one. And here in the US (and elsewhere), a British Accent is often used when a sense of sophistication or luxury is required. Brands try to use these to sell more product, so it seems natural to try to use these perceptions to my advantage when promoting my business. I have a natural British Neutral (RP) Accent, so I wanted to have a commercial demo targeted exclusively at the ‘Luxury’ end of the market. It’s a strategy playing both to my strengths as a Voice Actor and to the trends present in some parts of the world.
Seven Years later as a VO, I now have three commercial reels and send a different one depending on the market I’m sending too. If a production house promotes high end video projects on their website, then they get my aforementioned Luxury Commercial Reel. If they spend time on their website showcasing the awards they have won, they get my One Voice Compilation and so on. I’m seeking to show the client that I think like they do, that I have skills that fit their market and that I’ve booked work similar to the content they are creating.
Whilst being aware that very few of us can rush out and make 8 or 10 specialized niche demo reels with which to market ourselves, I do feel that the trend towards increased segmentation, is one we all need to keep in our minds.
How do we market more precisely to a specific genre? For example, if you want to be in E-Learning, a specific E-Learning demo reel is important. (Or at least a narrative demo that highlights your natural voice). An instructional Designer is probably not going to want to hear your best Animation Characters, or your best death scream and a Game director probably won't be wowed by your beautifully crafted Health and Safety spot! When using that demo to promote yourself, consider why casters might choose you for one product or service. Let the casters know if you have relevant experience especially in jargon heavy narrative such, as Medical or Financial.
Considering it just was International Woman’s Day (8th March), it’s important to note that there are now more women in voice over, doing more VO work than ever. Some of this is due to the phenomenal growth in E-Learning as a VO sector and some say this might be related to the fact that a female voice is perceived as extremely trustworthy and less threatening to employees than a male voice. The growth of women in voice acting is expected to continue.
Authenticity is also coming into play more with voice overs. Does the caster choose a real kid (for authenticity) or an adult portraying a kid (who may bring a maturity of performance)? - Trending towards Real Kids. Does the caster choose a Native Accented Actor or someone who can ‘do’ the Accent? -Preference towards Native Accents with a “but”, as the casting choice may ultimately depend on other factors not related to authenticity. Can a suitable native talent be found within the timeframe? Does the quality of the acting performance outweigh the need for an authentic accent? An interesting take on this is ‘The Queens Corgi’. This animated movie was initially made with an authentic UK Voiceover cast. The US version we saw, had been re-voiced with a largely US voiceover cast, that performed British accents. Did they want to somehow Americanize it in a British way or was it less expensive to re-voice than to pay international voiceover usage fees? Not sure, the true reason but ultimately it did provide double the voice over opportunities.
Cultural integrity is has also become more important and crucial to authenticity and there is certainly a hot debate around an actor's ability to portray a role outside of their authentic selves. Other bespoke castings for androgynous and/or gender-neutral voices are starting to play in the market, adding new voice opportunities to the mix. Did you know that five voices were initially used to help create Q, a program allowing the existing voice of Alexa and Cortana to be changed to a 'genderless' voice? A recognition of the power of societal change.
There will always be unexpected elements to the choices being made in casting. Marketing to your strengths and uniqueness whilst keeping an eye on upcoming trends and how you can best fit into them. It’s important to respect the casting spec and to try and judge where and when to take a voice over risk. You may find it doesn't make a difference or that you are the ‘different’ they didn’t know they were looking for.