Even if we don’t always recognize them at first, celebrities provide their voices to many of the commercials we end up watching on our screens. Chris Pine has been the voice of BMW for 10 years, Minnie Driver gives Lexus appeal, Will Arnett can be heard in Reese’s spots, including the brand’s new Halloween spot, and yes, that was Sam Elliott, the longtime voice of Coors and past-Smokey Bear, who provided his resonating baritone to the latest ad for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
Celebrities for voice-overs are so sought after that even when brands cannot afford a specific star for a campaign, they will turn to casting agencies or ad agencies to find an actor who can carry the same essence, energy or type of sound, potentially tiptoeing the lines of the law (more on that later).
Why celebrities? Creative professionals agree: They help a brand stand out amid the hodgepodge of ads that fill our screens, even if you don’t immediately recognize whose voice is delivering the message.
“The general hope is that a celebrity voice-over can keep the listener’s brain engaged just long enough for them to not switch channels, fast forward through the commercials or walk away,” says Tim Curtis, partner at entertainment and talent company William Morris Endeavor (WME), who paired Helena Bonham Carter’s (“Sweeney Todd,” “Harry Potter”) smooth British notes to the new Apple Watch campaign. “If it’s a familiar-sounding voice, even if it’s one that you may not recognize immediately, your ear tunes in and subliminally connects you. When you’re trying to cut through the clutter, the value of that is priceless.”