Promo Voiceover Is a Peculiar and Wonderful Beast

People choose to become voice over artists for any number of reasons. The two most common are, a) they’re constantly told that they have a great voice, or b) they’re told, Wow, you can do a lot of impressions!

I actually got in for a different reason. I had been told that I had a good voice, which was always nice to hear, but my real passion, right off the bat, was promo. Growing up, I loved hearing the guys (and gals) on TV who said “Coming up next…”

My very first agents tried to steer me away from that. Commercials are where the money is, I was told. And they weren’t wrong; there’s plenty of money in commercials. But—and I know this sounds crazy—there’s something better in promo: glory.

Think about it. The only commercial voice over actors most people can name are the celebrities. But promo actors have a SOUND. Even if you don’t know their names (and unless you’re in the business, you generally don’t), you know their voices. The reason is, you hear them more consistently. They brand a network.

Ernie Anderson (father of film director Paul Thomas Anderson) is probably one of the best known promo voices. If you’re old enough, you’ll remember his basso profundo talking about what was coming up next on “the Loooove Boat.”

Nowadays, you’re more likely to recognize Joe Cipriano (the original voice of Fox) or Roger Rose (CBS), who have instantly recognizable sounds.

What drew me in from the very start was probably that good promos are like music. (Did I mention that I was a musician for years after college? Ask me about it some time over a couple beers.) They have an intro, they build to a crescendo, they finish strong, and if they’re done right, they leave the viewer (or listener) wanting more.

Oftentimes when you’re doing a promo, you’re asked to do it “to picture,” which means you have to fit your lines in between the existing dialogue in the finished piece, which is sort of like being a lead singer. And you have to be able to keep one eye on the screen and one eye on the copy. It’s kind of a thrill.

Anyway, promo is my great love, and I love sharing my pieces here. Thought I’d post up one of my Fox spots from a couple years ago, which gives you an idea of what I mean about fitting my lines in between the dialogue (called “hitting posts” in voice over lingo). Happy Monday!