It’s the classic case of “God, I know that voice!”
That nagging feeling you get when you catch a commercial on TV or the radio, the voice-over kicks in, and all you can do is focus on who the voice belongs to—we’ve all experienced it. And more often than not, the voice you’re dying to identify indeed belongs to a celebrity you may not have considered a candidate for such work.
Lots of employed actors dabble in voice-over gigs for a variety of products worldwide. Although you are more likely to find Leonardo DiCaprio schilling a product on camera somewhere outside of America, celebrities have yet to be phased by the voice-over. It’s a paycheck without the face time, and there are plenty of famous voices doing some of the most recognizable commercial spots.
Patrick Dempsey—State Farm Commercials
Dempsey certainly doesn’t need to do voice-over work with a face like that, but he still manages to squeeze in pitches between all the Grey’s Anatomy dramas. Those voice stints include work for State Farm as well as Mazda. His signature vocal pitch gives him away every time, but it’s still entertaining to hear Dempsey at work while not actually seeing him at work.
He’s usually playing the handsome “every man” in shows like Sex and the City and Showtime’s United States of Tara, which is exactly why his voice-over seems to work so well for a restaurant chain that claims to cater to all types of family or friendly get togethers. When Corbett says, “It’s a whole new neighborhood,” you kind of find yourself buying it.
A strong and authoritative speaker without being preachy, Scott is currently lending his vocal talents to Chevron’s new “Power of Human Energy” campaign, which includes TV spots for the big oil corporation. His voice is soothing without sounding condescending, much like the Scott we’ve come to know and love in his film work.
Allison Janney—Kaiser Permanente
Janney is best known for her quirky supporting roles in films like Juno and her Emmy-winning turn in NBC’s The West Wing, but she’s also the voice in Kaiser Permanente’s “Thrive” campaign, reminding us to “[c]hange, and the world changes with you.” I’ll take that kind of advice from “C.J. Cregg” over some unknown medical professional any time.
Jeff Bridges—Duracell Batteries
Like the trusted batteries themselves, Bridges manages to bring authority to his delivery, even if many associate him with White Russians and bowling. The actor famous his role in The Big Lebowski has a lot of big projects before him, including the remake of Disney’s Tron, but his voice now resonates with those looking for the best battery outside of the Energizer bunny.
He’s one of several independent film actors (see Campbell Scott for Chevron) who has a voice that’s benign enough to run across a commercial spot without being too invasive, which is great for an ad campaign that has been priceless on its own merit. Discovering that Crudup pitches that now-classic line is like icing on a cool-campaign cake.
Spacey has a great vocal cadence that’s ideal for voice-over work, something he’s managed to master in his film career (he does the voice-over in American Beauty and The Usual Suspects) as well as for major advertising gigs. That’s his voice hawking the latest Honda models in national commercial spots, something he’s done since 2006.
John Krasinski—Verizon Blackberry Storm
Krasinski has nailed the deadpan look into the camera on his hit show The Office, and his voice offers that same guy-in-the-next-cubicle tone in Verizon’s latest TV spots for its Blackberry Storm. To hear about the latest Blackberry benefits from a guy who sounds like he’s familiar with the product is a bonus.
You’ve probably heard Hackman more than you’ve seen him recently, thanks to his voice-over work for Lowe’s Home Improvement store ads, a gig he’s held on to since 2002. That kind of vocal longevity can be rare, so you’re forgiven if the actor’s vocal talents have been lost on you over time.
Zach Braff—PUR Water Filter Commercials
Braff's is the voice inside your head that could drive you crazy if not placed. And why? Because as “Dr. John ‘J.D.’ Dorian” on Scrubs, his voice-overs drove the show. Now that voice drives the ad campaign for PUR water filters as Braff literally speaks as water with quips like, “I’m water. I shouldn’t be trapped in a bottle. I’ve got things to do. Trees to grow. Thirsts to quench . . .” Braff’s tone is totally easy to swallow, that’s for sure.
Nailing down that talking product or logo in a commercial can be like solving a puzzle, especially when those actors aren’t really going for recognition in this line of work. But hearing our favorite celebrities promoting goods we actually use is half the appeal. Plus, hearing someone famous other than Morgan Freeman offers a nice change of pace too.
Updated September 29, 2010
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons