Every day there’s a new phone app that just blows people away, whether it helps you find a parking space in a busy city or lets you hook up for a little afternoon delight with a new “friend.” All these electronic gewgaws are impressive and fun but old-fashioned entertainment like TV and radio will not be shoved aside.
Despite the daily onslaught of new technology, companies still choose TV, radio or a combination to push their products or services because those mediums are still the most successful avenues. And advertisers learned decades ago that celebrity voiceovers – recognizable or not – upped their sales.
James Earl Jones, whose voice made Darth Vader of Star Wars sound so menacing, was one of the first and most successful at advertising voiceovers. His memorable utterance of just three words, “This is CNN,” still echoes in consumer minds, and he went on to use his distinctive baritone voice in Bell Atlantic and Verizon ads, among others.
After Jones’ success in the genre, actors and actresses from both small and silver screens started lending their voices to ads. Most of these celebrities are still stars; they don’t take these gigs out of financial need. But why not make money on relatively easy gigs that increase your exposure and generate royalties every time they air?
Some voices are easier to recognize than others and some might drive you crazy trying to attach names to them. Here’s a list of some you might have heard.
11. Zach Braff – Cottonelle
Braff used his voice in conjunction with his gift for physical comedy to make Scrubs a hit. Someone at Cottonelle had a broader insight into his talents. For years, Braff was the voice of the Cottonelle puppy. Pitching toilet tissue is rarely that creative – unless you count the Charmin bear family. How did toilet paper and animals ever become connected?
10. Susan Sarandon – Stouffer’s
Breathy and original, Sarandon‘s voice has enhanced all her star performances from Thelma and Louise to Dead Man Walking. With over 130 movie and TV credits, she’s established herself as a classic. Stouffer’s has been around long enough to have frozen entrees in categories such as Signature Classics. This made Sarandon a perfect fit for their voiceovers. With her distinctive tone, it’s a wonder we don’t hear her hawking more products.
9. Jon Hamm – American Airlines and Mercedes Benz
Describing the new lay-flat seats offered by the Hamm’s voice sounds sincere and comforting. For fans of the handsome actor of Mad Men fame, his suggestion of comfy reclining may elicit more than thoughts of airline travel. Hamm had also established his voice talents in Mercedes Benz ads. What’s cool about his American Airlines affiliation is the company’s prominence as a client on Mad Men.
8. Matt Damon – TD Ameritrade
In 2012, TD Ameritrade decided to change advertising gears. For years, Sam Waterson was their spokesperson. In the interest of attracting younger investors, they hired Damon to pitch their investment services. His appealing voice coupled with live action and animation was a winner. And despite his many talents, Damon rarely gets recognized for his artistic contributions.
7. Jason Sudeikis – Applebee’s
For 8 years, John Corbett was the sole voice of Applebee’s. But in 2012, Sudeikis joined him for an ad campaign announcing a new line of healthy, fresh menu items. Corbett always uses his natural country bumpkin tone for the ads. Sudeikis used so many voices during his long run on Saturday Night Live, it’s hard to tell which is actually his. That talent to impersonate almost any voice could keep Sudeikis employed for decades.
6. John Krasinski – Blackberry
The cell phone industry was once quite competitive. Long before the current domination of the leading smart phone manufacturers, Blackberry was a strong contender back in 2008. Around the same time Krasinski was playing Jim Halpert on the hit TV show The Office, he was providing the voice for the “Blackberry Storm” television commercials. He allegedly was a big fan of the brand at the time. Krasinski also does voice work for other companies such as Esurance.
5. Will Arnett – GMC
In 2012, Arnett started doing voiceovers for GMC cars. The ads tout the best features of all GMC models, especially the American made aspect. Arnett’s success kept him the job through 2014. The Saturday Night Live and Arrested Development star also uses his voice skills to promote Hulu. Listen for him to expand his voiceover resume in 2015.
8. Lisa Kudrow – Yoplait
Lisa Kudrow has one of the most recognizable female voices of the last couple of decades. Her voice was a big part of her quirky Friends character Phoebe Buffay. With her unique and lively tone, she helped boost Yoplait sales with her voiceovers in 2012. That success led her to appear later in voice over roles for TV, film and video games. With two hit shows currently on the air, we may not see or hear her on TV ads for a while.
7. Patrick Dempsey – State Farm
Better known as McDreamy to fans of Gray’s Anatomy, Dempsey‘s voice is very soothing. His cadence is also mesmerizing. Since insurance is hard to make exciting, he was the perfect choice for State Farm ads. Adding his handsome face and calm tone of voice to the ads would only sweeten the deal. His recent transition to single status also adds to his appeal.
6. John Goodman – Dunkin’ Donuts
After his enormous success playing Roseanne’s husband Dan on her sitcom, Goodman was the perfect voice for a brand that’s played to the working class for almost 6 decades. His voice epitomizes the down-to-earth honesty typically associated with blue collar workers. Even though Goodman‘s played many evil roles since then, he can dredge up that homey voice in a heartbeat. Nothing beats down-home twang. And nothing is homier than a glazed donut and a cup of old-fashioned coffee.
5. George Clooney – Budweiser
To the surprise of many, George Clooney also has an appealing voice. Even though he’s best known for his good looks and philanthropy, Clooney’s voice has contributed to sales of telecommunication systems, account auditing companies and beer. You can almost see the mischievous glimmer in his eyes when he’s pitching products with his voice. Add his image to an ad, as Nespresso did, and the appeal is doubled. Clooney wins again.
4. David Duchovny – Pedigree Dog Food
Duchovny‘s proved his acting versatility by starring for years in The X Files and then in the Showtime hit Californication. His voiceover talents are equally impressive. Even if you don’t own a dog, his tone will reel you in. It’s got a lilt that’s trustworthy and endearing, a big plus for any company. Despite his bad boy reputation, his voice sounds like the boy next door. A bonus for those who do recognize his voice will know he is a supporter of animals rights.
3. Julia Roberts – AOL
If you can become America’s sweetheart by playing a high class call girl, anything is possible. Roberts did just that in Pretty Woman. AOL owes at least part of its early popularity to Roberts’ voiceover on their commercials. Her upbeat tone of voice reportedly earned her a nice seven-figure pay check. Rumor has it most voiceover celebs make much less.
2. Kevin Spacey and Richard Dreyfuss – Honda Automobiles
Besides having success in such classic movies as The Usual Suspects and Close Encounters of the Third Kind respectively, Spacey and Dreyfuss have two of the most distinct voices ever. Both speak with authority. Spacey‘s voice has a tinge of sarcasm, and hearing Dreyfuss conjures up images of wise authority figures. Both were perfect for Honda promotions. People respond well to voices that inspire confidence in making major purchases.
1. Queen Latifah – Pizza Hut
Not that many people have to be enticed to eat pizza, but a voice like Queen Latifah‘s could “cure” those claiming intolerance to gluten. Her cadence is almost musical and provides a very easy listen. The tone is warm and enticing. Pair that seductive voice with close-ups of hot, melting cheese and pepperoni and you’ve got a winning combo. The Queen never disappoints.