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Voice-Over Vs. Voice-Over

During the peak season for political ads, which is usually summer through Nov. 2 in election years, busy voice-over actors might cut as many as a dozen ads in a day. Political advertising has become much more fluid and spontaneous, with candidates producing and airing ads on the fly to respond to opponents’ attacks or to other news.

The high-metabolism news cycle makes such frenetic ad-making necessary, and technology — most voice-over artists have home studios where they record “spots” and email sound files to the advertising agencies — makes it possible.   

Jump recalls the quick turnaround of an advertisement in the 2010 Connecticut Senate race by Linda McMahon dinging Democrat Richard Blumenthal for lying about having served in Vietnam. 

He got the script in the early morning and recorded it in his home studio in Central Virginia. “We did it at 8 in the morning and it was on the air at 10,” he says.

After actors are on a firm’s short list, they do what they can to stay there — including saying no to work that might conflict with their primary source of income.

Sticking to that choice, though, isn’t always easy.

“Sometimes when I turn down lucrative work, I go ‘ouch,’” Sechler says.

Toscano also says that in the competitive world of campaigning, working with actors who take jobs from both parties raises tactical concerns. “You don’t want to be on the phone with a voice-over actor telling them what your advertising plans are if an hour later they’re going to be on the phone with a Republican,” he says. “Not that they’re going to say anything, but there’s a rift there.” 

Not every ad maker feels that way. Republican advertising guru Doug McAuliffe says loyalty to the GOP isn’t a prerequisite. “I don’t think talent should be held hostage by ideology,” he says.

And even though going partisan can be a business decision, some voice-over actors say their voices convey authenticity when they’re delivering lines they believe in. 

Klvana recalls voicing a commercial for Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid. She was an enthusiastic supporter of the Massachusetts Democrat and thinks her passion came through in the ad. “I felt like I wanted to put everything I had into the mic,” she says. “I personally wanted to squeeze every drop I had in there.”

And some feel that their work on political advertisements means they’re playing a bit part in history. But in the end, they say, they are actors, not activists. 

“I know my place in the food chain,” Jump says. “My job is to deliver a message, not question it.”

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