Radio Advertising: A view from the booth

The patience to handle hearing "let's try that again" more times in a few minutes than you have in a lifetime is key to being a voiceover artist.

The first thing that strikes you on entering a voiceover studio is the sheer volume of people who congregate there. It's a veritable committee: account managers, client representatives, creatives, and - more often than not - someone who's flown over from Europe, sits in the corner and says nothing, but looks troubled and Teutonic for an hour.

The script is usually a single sheet of paper, pored over and changed by enough people to provide respectable viewing figures for a late-night cable channel.

Within five minutes, this script has changed, because once it gets read out, it doesn't fit the time slot. This elaborate baby, conceived by countless creatives, must be brought to life in under 30 seconds.

As a result, the session ends up focusing on how quickly you can say "feminine hygiene product", the successful take being the one which has shaved the requisite seconds off the total time.

With a gaggle of people behind the microphone, it's hard to know who to listen to and what advice to take. This is where a director is key, providing the sole focus for the voiceover artist to respond to.

We can't necessarily be relied upon to give the right performance, lapsing into a default RP sales mode or lazy up-and-down modulation.

Most importantly, directors are used to communicating performance notes in ways we can understand. In past jobs, I have received crazy instructions where some extreme Edward de Bono-style extrapolation was needed.

On a commercial for a travel company, the creative director once told me I was being "too citrus".

I thought about it. I re-did it to the best of my ability.

He thought about it. Then he said: "Good, but I still need it to be a little less yellow." I felt humiliated.

The man had been talking about colour, and I thought it was acidity. In the end, I just thought of a Granny Smith and it came out okay.

I have been asked to be "a bit more German". I come from Croydon. Could I possibly be more like John Cleese? I lack the Y-chromosome. During a test for a spice range, I was advised I was being too "pally". Pally? Like a funeral pall, he replied.

Sitting in a booth doing silly voices is fun. It's so much more fun when you feel you've delivered a reading that's right. So, when you're next timing an ad, think once, think twice, think HAM - and leave an extra second for us.

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