Joy Radio Casting

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Joy Golden learned radio comedy by sleeping with Jack Benny. That's not quite literally true, (or at least she's too discreet to go into the details) but Golden is old enough to have caught the tail-end of radio's Golden Age. Her parents usually sent her off to bed just as Benny's show was about to start, so she had the added advantage of absorbing the master's lessons while in a totally dark room, always the preferred environment for radio.

Nonetheless, she only discovered her talent for radio in the early '80s, while freelancing as a copywriter specializing in decidedly feminine and overwhelmingly visual cosmetics accounts. TBWA's Dick Costello asked her to try writing some comic radio spots for Laughing Cow cheese. In one, a housewife offers some of the mini-cheeses to her husband as a bedtime snack. "He ate all 10 and said it was the best treat he'd ever had in bed. So I smacked him." Sales jumped 60 percent, the campaign ran for five years, and Golden set herself up to write and produce radio spots as Joy Radio. Since then, she's accumulated a wallful of One Show Pencils, Mercurys, Addys, Andys, Clios and, in recognition of her contributions to the cheese industry, the American Dairy Association bestowed upon her the coveted Golden Udder Award.

Joy Radio continues to write and produce campaigns - recent clients include Crabtree & Evelyn, E-Loan and JobDirect.com - but Golden recognized about a year ago that tight agency economics were leading creative directors to keep the radio copy assignments in-house. Even so, she saw that there was still a need for her casting talents , hence Joy Radio Casting. Some of the recent campaigns she's cast include New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority and Wilmington Trust, both through Korey Kay, and Boar's Head, from David Altschiller Advertising. The new division's name may be something of a misnomer, however, since Golden is also eager to apply her discerning ears for voice tracks. Casting, she believes, amounts to about 75 percent of a radio spot's effectiveness, even if it means auditioning 100 actors until she finds the voice she hears in her head. "The right voices can save even mediocre copy, because if the voices don't creep into your ears you won't listen," she believes. Taking the reductio ad absurdum approach, she recalls that Johnny Carson once asked Richard Burton to read aloud the New York phone book. "It sounded like Shakespeare," she recalls.

Although some adult actors have developed a specialty performing children's roles, Golden always prefers the real thing. "I've heard 11-year-olds who can sound like they're 8, but once the hormones kick in they really can't pass for prepubescents." Film actors with the juice to open a picture eagerly pursue VO work for TV, but Golden finds that, with a few exceptions like Charlton Heston's signature pomposity for DDB's "Great American Heroes" Budweiser campaign, Hollywood still doesn't believe that radio has enough prestige to overcome the recognition downside. And clients are rarely willing to expand their radio production budgets to accommodate the over-scale fees they command.

Voiceover agents are the obvious source, but Golden also draws on performers from the improv and comedy clubs, the theater and even the occasional randomly encountered voice. After those formative years listening to radio in the dark, Golden is an advocate for art directors in radio. "The listener builds the visuals in his head, based on what the actor sounds like and the sound effects," she explains. "Art directors can describe a visual scenario that's very helpful to a copywriter and a producer. Listeners have to become collaborators. If they don't click into the scenario, if there's no visual coming into their minds, then the commercial sucks. You want to leave a little permanent dent in the listener's brain."

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