The Strategy of Knowing WHO You’re Auditioning For

Even the best of actors just starting out in voiceovers will make this innocent and understandable mistake: “bigging up” the product name while reading the script. It feels like it makes sense to really emphasize the product name, right? They’re the ones paying thousands, or even millions of dollars to get their name out there. There’s a good reason though (several, actually), why this shouldn’t happen. Knowing WHO you are actually auditioning for is just one part of understanding why the product isn’t always the most important part of the script. Knowing WHAT you are saying is the other part.

scriptSo first the “who.” Here’s the usual chain of procedure: Let’s say Toyota wants to do a spot for their Prius model. They call their ad agency (if they already have an ongoing relationship with one – and most big advertisers do). In this case it’s Saatchi & Saatchi (LA). They talk to their contact at the agency and relay the general information: the product, any pertinent information that must be mentioned, etc.

The writers at the ad agency then get to work on the spot. If the spot is approved, they move forward with the casting. (Details at this stage can vary based on the decision-making personalities at play.) Now here’s where the possible divide in choosing a voice happens: if the spot is your usual 13-week run radio spot, or something of the sort—nothing too huge—usually the writer and perhaps the producer at Saatchi will choose the voice. This is most common. If the spot is for a National Network campaign, or if the voice chosen will be THE voice on all the spots for the next year or so, then here’s where the product people from Toyota might step in.

So for the majority of scripts you are reading for, it’s the creatives who write and produce the spot that are listening to your audition. These people do care about the product, but more importantly, they care about you sounding authentic and interesting. Saying a product name bigger, louder, with MORE EMPHASIS, is neither authentic nor interesting, and they know it. They’re listening for your connection to the whole script.

So now the “what.” Just what are you saying? If you can understand this, you instantly sound more connected and believable. Most scripts can be broken down to two parts: the product information and the “story” the writer builds around the product to make the commercial palatable….deliverable. Here’s an example:

Your life has more than one dimension. So should your beer. Ultra with just 2.6 grams of carbs and 95 calories.

There’s more to this script but this is all we need to examine. It’s pretty clear where the “information” is and where the conceptual story-building is. But to be clear: the first two sentences are obviously creative choices by the writer to use in building up to introducing the product. Without it, the script would be pure information—dry and boring. Flat. So those first two sentences will give you a much greater indication of what the writer is going for.

Knowing that the spot is about beer or that it’s low-calorie doesn’t tell you HOW to read it, what kind of personality to have….only the writer knows that. And so when you look at the “writer’s lines,” you know where to put your emphasis and what kind of style to stay with. Those first two sentences are statements of fact. They instantly make me think “confident.” Keep looking and see what other traits you pick up. You will also hopefully get “specs” from the writer, so it won’t all be a guessing game, but looking at the lines in greater detail will give your read a more layered feel, more dimension and connection.

Again, it doesn’t mean you ignore the product name entirely, but hitting the product name and missing the deeper meaning that the writer was going for will leave you at the bottom of the list. It’s a beginner’s mistake, and hopefully you already know this, but looking closely at the lines that aren’t just delivering information will still help your read gain depth. Remember: Every eliminated mistake is a strategy gained.

About Lesley Bailey

Lesley Bailey is an award-winning Casting Director, Voiceover Coach, Demo Producer, and Consultant who has worked at some of the top advertising, casting, and production companies in the country. Lesley’s coaching style focuses on script-analysis and those little “tricks” of the trade that she has gathered over two decades of working with the best producers, directors, writers, agents, and actors in the business.


  1. Hi Lesley

    Love this post!

    I’m an Australian voice actor and coach and you and I are on the same page. I love the analyses of the script as well. If you read my blogs, they have a very similar feel to yours.

    I’m always telling my students that they need to keep ‘mining’ the script for the gold by understanding just what they’re saying.

    Sadly, not everyone gets it.

    Anyway…thanks for sharing


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