Finding Your Voiceover Tone: Political Ads

by | Oct 29, 2022 | Voice Actor

This article is the third in a three-part series by voiceover coach Kathy Grable on adjusting your vocal tones for different types and genres of copy. See the first article on medical commercials and the second on legal language in The Greenhouse Journal!

It’s that time of year here in the United States again – political season.  I know you’re probably already tired of all the ads, but as the November midterm elections approach in the U.S., ads are flying fast and furious for candidates, propositions, bond issues… you name it. But it’s also a great season for a voice talent since most of these ads are down and dirty with some images, dramatic music, and voiceover dialogue. It’s the most cost-effective way for the campaigns to do a quick turnaround for digital, radio, web, and TV spots.

And when I say quick, I mean quick. I’ve gotten copy at 4:00 in the afternoon and asked to have it in by 5:00. And while unusual, I’ve been booked and had to record within 15 minutes of being booked from my home studio for the spot to air on the East Coast by the same afternoon.

So how does that affect you? Simply put, they need someone with a home studio that can turn things about quickly. It’s gotten to be such big business for voice talents that some agencies now feature a political ad section where VO talents can list their preferences – in other words, ads you will voice and those you will not. And you can list your party affiliation and so on. It’s a great way for those of you just breaking in to get your foot in the door.

But some things you want to watch out for – if you have an agent that’s great. Your agent can negotiate a buy-out as they are often non-union spots, although not always. If non-union, once the price is set, they buy all the rights to your voice for internet, TV, and radio. It’s usually a nice bit of cash, even after the agent’s 10 percent. One good thing about the buyout, is that you know it won’t run for years as it’s a limited run – until the election. And many campaigns do union spots as well.

Like any spot, there are some that will be hard-hitting, some more empathetic, but they are direct and to the point whether it is a candidate or a proposition that you’re hired to do. I think one of the key points of doing political ad, is that while it might build and create a story, it has a sense of being direct and to the point whether that’s right out of the gate, or in the middle or end of the spot.

Like any client, while it may not come back for a year or two years, ad agencies that specialize in campaigns and elections will often remember you, and it can become repeat business in a career. Whether it is a good thing or not, elections have become a big business and one which voiceover is capturing and is active in.

So now is the time to listen to those spots you might want to otherwise mute, and possibly get involved if you are represented, because it might still be something you want to get your feet wet in whether it’s this political season or the next. It’s not for everyone, and don’t feel you have to compromise if you’re not in agreement with the candidate or issue. That is usually respected, and they realize it’s part of the business that is not for everyone.


Got a question for Kathy Grable about the craft or business of voiceover? Email us your question at [email protected]!

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