Summertime in Vancouver means Playland. My job in this campaign is always the straight man gig, but it's an honour to speak alongside these great artists. Rethink knocks it out of the park again this year...even the cranky announcer sounds happy...!
Today I read an op-ed article by a voice-over artist describing, with weary condescension, a “pitch” recording session. In Canada we call these demos -- rough versions of commercials recorded on spec for a client who will decide if the spots should be made for real. If it’s a yes, the same voice artist may be brought back, or the job may be re-cast, but the original artist is paid for their time regardless.
In this instance, it seems the agency executives were too focused on their phones, they didn’t give the right kind of direction...the artist felt under-appreciated.
I get it. It’s not always easy to relate to the people on the other side of the glass. Often I’m twice the age of the agency creatives (they’re mostly millennials). And sure, we all like to joke about the kind of direction we’re given in sessions: I do, my colleagues do, and so does Joe Cipriano in the movie “In a World”. But we do it with respect, I believe. And appreciation -- most important, appreciation. I’m grateful to be able to earn a living on the mic. In my work as a voice artist, I have not only been challenged and supported, I’ve also learned more about acting, about the human voice, and about listening than I could have imagined.
I hate the cynical attitude. I know not every session is ideal. The people you work for sometimes seem disengaged. I know it’s advertising, and it’s hard not to feel cynical about that sometimes, even when you have chosen to work in this industry (and there are many people out there who’d love to get work in this industry). And we are talking about a job that pays well above minimum wage for work that involves no more heavy labour than lifting a pencil. It’s not a huge hardship.
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt says you can bear anything by taking it in ten-second increments. “Just count to ten. And when you’re done, start over and count to ten again.”
I know that’s what I did when I finished reading the article, and it seemed to help.
Years ago, I was hired to tag some radio and tv spots for Playland, the Vancouver amusement park. Rethink had taken over the account, and they wanted to try something new for this well-loved summer family tradition. Instead of a cheerful, friendly announcer voice inviting listeners to come and enjoy fun rides, these ads featured the Cranky Megaphone Lady. She was tired, bored, fed up. With an irritated sigh, she gave the information ("Playland, now open daily"), but she really did not give a... you know.
I thought this would be a one-off, I really did, but the campaign was a hit. Rethink was ahead of the curve, anticipating the shift away from "perky". Cranky Megaphone Lady was an early-days version of what's now the ubiquitous "anti-announcer" read. And she has returned every summer to (sigh...) remind you to check out new rides, like The Hellavator, The Beast... We recently recorded the 2016 campaign, and the guys at the studio and I were counting how many years it's been. I think we're at 14 now, right, John? Which, in advertising, is what's called a campaign with legs.
Poor Megaphone Lady will be working a longer shift this year. The Beast is back, she's got legs, and she knows how to use them.
This is why I do what I do.
Watch the first five minutes and you'll be hooked.