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Voice-over actors muted by celebrities

May 7, 2012 | 11:17 am

Click here to play the celebrity voice-over quiz.
Tom Kane is no fan of Mercedes-Benz.

It's not the car that he has a problem with, it's that the company uses "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm as the voice of its radio and television commercials.

"Even if it is a terrific spot -- which it isn't -- people don't have a clue who that is," said Kane, a professional voice actor for two decades.

Unfortunately for Kane and other voice actors, more and more movie and television stars are getting into this line of work too. Although there were always some big-name actors who did commercial voice-over work, many steered clear. That is no longer the case.

"Actors on every level want to do voice-over work," said Tim Curtis, an agent who specializes in celebrity endorsements for agency WME. "It's a fun thing for them to do, doesn't take much time and can be really lucrative."

Advertisers don't mind shelling out more because they think being associated with a star benefits their brand.

"It's kind of like paying a little more for a shirt," said Rob Schwartz, chief creative officer at Chiat/Day, whose clients include Nissan and Visa, whose ads feature the voices of Robert Downey Jr. and Morgan Freeman, respectively.

"Some are fabulous and some are pretty mediocre," said Keri Tombazian, a veteran voice actor of the celebrities who have gotten into the game. "The unfortunate thing for us is that career voice-over actors are not afforded the luxury of mediocrity."

For more on what the influx of celebrities has meant for everyday voice actors, please see the story in the Los Angeles Times.

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-- Joe Flint

Photo: Voice-over actress Keri Tombazian. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

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