Voiceover ethics – are you prepared to lend your voice to anything?

Will you put your mouth where the money is? Do your personal ethics come into play when negotiating a job?

I’m grateful this isn’t something I have to consider very often as a voiceover. Generally my clients are radio stations or production houses, and the bulk of my work is mainstream radio and tv commercials, corporate narrations, phone messaging and e-learning. But just once in a while I get something a little tricky.

A recent case in point, a referral from a colleague I admire and respect. Thrilled to be recommended, a little anxious that I shouldn’t let them down, I opened the email enthusiastically. And as I read the script, my heart sank.

It quickly became obvious that this was for an out-bound calling system of the

“you’ve won a (ahem) free holiday, just stand by, oh, and make sure your credit card details are to hand”

variety. And to be absolutely honest, I was a little shocked. Of course, I’ve had the automated PPI calls, and the wadda-you-know-you’re-owed-compensation-for-the-accident-you-never-had calls, but never anything so horribly, obviously exploitive.

There was no question of me recording it, but I did need to summon up all my best email writing skills to ensure that the client wasn’t offended, my colleague’s reputation wasn’t damaged in any way, and that I came out of it looking professional.

And of course, I know I’m not indispensable, I’m sure there are plenty of other people that would be happy to record this kind of phone message (although I know far more that wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole).

My personal NO list includes unsolicited out-bound calling systems which can be anything from mildly annoying to downright intimidating, and anything promoting smoking or e-cigarettes. I’m undecided about political material (should it fit with my personal beliefs, or am I ok believing I’m voicing but not endorsing?). And I’ve voiced the promotional video for a range of sex toys, but decided I was comfortable recording it since the script was very clearly educational rather than salacious. The “what would my mother think” test was quite useful in that situation.

So, do you know where you would you draw the line? Or would you just take the money and run? And do you think it matters when you’re simply a disembodied voiceover, rather than a celebrity or well-known figure? Is it just a job for you?

Jump on in, I’d love to know your thoughts.

1 Comment

  1. Richard Heathcote on July 30, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Absolutely 100% agree Nat.

    I’ve had a handful of enquiries of this nature before, and it’s also on my personal ‘not a chance, ever, in this lifetime’ list.

    I’ve also had to decline a politically-related one a couple of years ago – the script just didn’t feel right at all, it was overtly ‘isn’t this person amazing, all he’s done for the local community’ – very much overboard, to the point of out-and-out propaganda. I jest not.

    It turns out, about 12 months later, this person (no names, naturally) got into some VERY hot water, and was nationally outed, having been involved in some very insalubrious activities. So thankfully, gut instinct worked, and I was very glad to not be involved in that particular production.

    The ‘what would my mother think’ test is an excellent rule of thumb I reckon!

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