How a radio producer looks at VO talent for radio commercials.
Mar 30 2018
A point we may not make often enough in our Edge-ucation blog is that Edge Studio, in addition to being a leading coaching entity, was originally and still is very much a production studio. From our large multi-booth production facility in Manhattan and in various other locations around the country (along with remote recording), we record for every VO genre. That experience and insight is one of the many reasons we excel at coaching and education, and why we’re able to legitimately hire many of our former students.
Like parents thinking of their children, we would hesitate to pick our favorite genre. But if we had to, Radio would surely be on our short list. That means commercials, celebrity interviews, promos, imaging (branding), all that. Some years ago we wrote an article explaining why Radio offers virtually unlimited creative opportunity. It was aimed at various advertisers who bypass the production studio (and producer) to have their spots done by the local radio station. There’s a strong case to be made that producing at Edge Studio will make a commercial better, more advertiser-specific, more persuasive and memorable.
But that article is on the Production section of our website, so readers of our Edge-ucation blog might not encounter it. Talent, too, can learn a lot from its perspective. So here it is:
IN VOICE-OVER, RADIO KNOWS NO BOUNDS!
Some people think you can’t do as much with radio voice-overs as you can with visual media such as TV and Internet commercials. They’re wrong. Whereas a visual medium is limited to what you can show, radio is limited to anything you can imagine. And it’s helped along by sound effects (SFX) and music.
We love it. Radio is a veritable playground.
There are so many things you can do with radio. There’s the conversational straight-read … the voice-over-a-radio-jingle … the dialog (what we call a “double”) … the humorous spot … the outright comedy spot … the warm, emotional spot … and the hard sell. Anything you can do with a combination of voice, music and sound effects, you can do in a voice-over or radio studio.
(Maybe you’ve heard the classic “Maraschino Cherry” radio production by Stan Freberg, whose comedy voice, on radio and TV in the ’50s and ’60s, greatly influenced American humor and advertising. That image-filled bit depicted the Royal Canadian Air Force dropping a giant maraschino cherry into one of the Great Lakes — filled with hot chocolate and topped with a mountain of whipped cream — to the cheering of 25,000 extras. Finished off with a dynamite jingle tag by Carmen McRae.)
We have tremendous respect for radio professionals, many of whom do amazing things at local radio stations. Unfortunately, most radio people are radio people, not trained voice-over actors. They are experienced in announcing, DJ’ing and promotion, but not necessarily in other types of voice-over. Radio voice training and acting voice training are simply not the same thing. Even more important, DJ’ing and acting presentation are even more different. For most types of radio commercials, you want a voice actor.
That said, many people work in both industries, performing very well. And a great many DJ’s, newspeople and other radio pros have trained with Edge Studio.
So we encourage advertisers and other production clients to bring their projects directly to Edge Studio, where we encompass everything. We have the facilities. We have the talent. And we have the imagination.
Produce your radio commercial in a professional voice-over studio such as ours, using performers who are trained as radio voice-over talent. This way you know your commercial will enhance your advertising image (and your own professional image). If you run it on one station, it will be more distinctive. If you run it on many, your image will be consistent. All in all, this improved effectiveness will greatly outweigh the relatively small added cost.
How to write for radio
For tips on writing radio scripts, see our article on Voice-over Copy.
To those, we would add the following, specific to radio.
At first, don’t worry about the length. Instead knock it out fast, and don’t inhibit yourself. But then come back a little later to cut it back to 60 seconds, 30 or whatever. Some of the funny stuff will still be funny. Some of the poignant passages will still be moving. Some of the sales points will work better than others. Those are the parts to keep.
Use the same principals as in print and other advertising. In print work, in order to be noticed, understood and remembered, an ad should be about one thing, not a laundry list. Same for radio. And, as in print, some commercials are conceptual, while others are simply “sales copy.” Either can be appropriate, depending on your communication goal.
Think “campaign.” As marketing professionals know, repetition is the name of the game. You and your client might tire of hearing your own “voice” over the radio long before the general public even catches on to it. (Although, a professional script and production can improve on that.)
But at some point, freshening will be necessary. If the first commercial is on-target, don’t jolt your product image by changing the advertising personality entirely. In fact, a follow-up spot in the same vein is where you can introduce copy points that you omitted from the first one to simplify your message.
And if you can’t easily extend your initial spot into a series of 2 or 3, maybe your concept isn’t as strong as you’d like it to be. Think again.
How to cast for radio
If you want to do the casting yourself (rather than simply choose from our recommendations), here are some tips:
Consider only trained professionals. Often a pro at voice-over gives radio copy a wonderful twist you hadn’t thought of. On the other hand, an amateur can significantly drag out the session, and may not be versatile enough to perform to your direction.
In listening to auditions (as opposed to demo recordings), disregard minor technical glitches and slip-ups that won’t occur in the actual production situation, or that can be easily corrected by re-recording the line. Even the most professional radio voice-over talent makes an occasional mistake. If you’re not sure what’s significant and what’s easily fixed, ask us.
If you’re auditioning out-of-town talent, it’s never been easier. You can produce by phone or Internet. So if you’re not in a major city yourself, your production can sound as if you were.
As we’ve noted, casting is one of the major reasons for using a studio that specializes in voice-over for radio production. We abound with talent resources. Edge Studio has recorded countless major celebrities, and voice-over veterans, and (with our long history of radio voice training) we also “grow our own” of every type. We have a large demo library of voice-over radio specialists. With all types of radio voice-overs, rely on us to find the right professional for your respective — and respectful — needs.
Do you have a comment or suggestion? Please send to [email protected].