Picture this: you are a voice over agent, it is Monday morning and you are itching to find out what the new week will bring. And there it is on your desk - your assistant has left a package containing what looks like a good old fashioned CD.
And why not, you think to yourself, everyone else may be communicating electronically, but here's a chance to hear a pristine quality showreel delivered differently. You open up the padded envelope taking out the silvery disc and then hunt around for a CD player.
The side of your Macbook Pro is smooth and does not contain any slots for physical media. You look around the office in vain.
In desperation you call your assistant.
He too has a search, peering under desks but doesn't seem to have much luck either, "we've updated all the computers to laptops" he says "the last CD played was that Robbie Williams album".
Then a light bulb goes on.
"Ah" he exclaims "I've got a player in my car" and off you both traipse to the multi storey down the road. "I'll get you a coffee while you're listening". You nod approvingly and realise why you hired this super efficient colleague in the first place.
The voice coming from the Ford Fiesta's speakers is interesting. You are pleasantly surprised as this voice-over hopeful has an interesting sound; she's around 40, you estimate, with an edgy huskiness and intelligent, assured performance.
The first ad is about the importance of holiday insurance; knowing, contemporary and well paced - you warm to the voice even more. This could be just the talent you are looking for.
Then the second track makes your heart sink.
There it is in all its syrupy-ness, oozing saccharine and delivered in a gooey, hammy way: yep it's the dreaded chocolate commercial. "Mmmmm this is a chocolate bar to be lingered over....smooooth and creeeeeemy" the words drip on the floor of the car, putting you off your coffee.
"Sugar?" enquires your assistant "no thanks, my glucose levels are now high enough" you say with a sigh of resignation.
Leaving aside the issue of whether your demo should be on CD (I hope to cover this subject in a future post) I want to know what it is about voice over showreels and chocolate ads. Why do some people and some recording studios who should know better, insist on including them on a reel?
Let me tell you straight: such tracks are hackneyed, cliched and outdated.
Agencies and clients want to hear something new and fresh; they want to be surprised, thrilled and engaged not bored witless. Imagine spending your day listening to demos everyday and coming across these the same old stuff over and over again.
They also want you to demonstrate you have an idea of current voice over trends. If you still think the Cadbury Caramel bunny is what advertisers want, you are so last century. However lovely those ads were with their luscious Miriam Margolyes and Tara Flynn characterisations, they scream 'eighties and 'nineties.
If you fancy yourself as the seductive voice of the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate bar in the world you need a reality check. This is not 1985.
Also, if you are just starting out in voice overs, I'll wager you won't be very good at soft sell commercials either. I say that through years of experience.... many beginners think a silky soft delivery is easy and will come naturally. It won't.
Pulling off that kind of read is not a piece of cake and most people need tons of practice in order to sound convincing and believable. In my years as a voice over coach I have heard so many examples of corny velvety/creamy performances and my advice to newbies is always the same; stay clear, until you have perfected this style.
So why are chocolate commercials prevalent on voice over demos?
I believe it is a mixture of misunderstanding and stereotyping. If someone tells you you have a voice 'like chocolate' it is perhaps understandable you assume you will be suitable for a TV ad about confectionary.
But the reality is very different. There are actually very few chocolate commercials on television:
The list is a real eye-opener isn't it? No Mars, no Cadburys (owned by Mondelez International) and not even my favourite Lindt makes an appearance.
Look at the top advertiser on British TV..... it is the television broadcaster, SKY. There is also a preponderance of soap powder/cleansing products thanks to their parent companies Unilever, Proctor & Gamble and Reckitt Benckiser, along with supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda.
But the sweet brown stuff is certainly not in the charts.
Look at the number of telecoms companies too: Virgin Media, TalkTalk, BT and their ilk. I can honestly say I have yet to hear a showreel featuring phone, TV or media ads and I've heard precious few burger, supermarket and toilet cleaning recordings.
Don't think your voice will be suitable for these products? Think again.
If you want to stand out from the crowd with your commercial reel do yourself a favour, ditch the chocolate and record a script from one of the products that companies really do advertise. The agents will find it a refreshing change.
What do you think about chocolate commercials on a showreel?
Please let me know your thoughts below...