“I feel most bad about myself when I listen to others, rather than
considering my own feelings about things.”  – Emerson

summerloungingIdentity, Branding & Type

In advertising, we identify with a product or service by its brand identity. This identity is carefully sculpted and established through well-planned promotion and product placement.  It often takes years just to come up with a name like Häagen-Dazs or Lunchables, and even longer to establish a reputation like McDonald’s or Macy’s. As a rule every brand is intended to evoke familiar concepts designed to appeal to specific demographic audiences. These things don’t come about on their own, although they’re certainly expected to appear that way.

The term branding comes from advertising. It allows you to differentiate yourself from the competition and, in the process, to bond with your audience and create loyalty. Branding is the process of making something distinctive in the marketplace. In a mass medium, to communicate effectively you must be able to convey your point quickly and distinctly, otherwise you may confuse, or, just as bad, underwhelm the viewer/listener.


The term identity comes from marketing. The idea here is if you can easily identify with the product, you can readily determine its value. (Sounds more like casting at every turn.) If you find the subject is something you can identify with rather quickly, you are more likely to embrace it. It will appear familiar, even if it may be something new. This is primarily why type is as important as it is.

Okay, so identity and branding deal with making a product recognizable and representative of something specific.

That’s what we do when producing your demo at Sound Advice. Determining your type as a talent, for both on-camera and as a voice-over, utilizes many of the same features when developing a brand identity. 

As Americans we’ve been raised on a steady diet of commercials. You’re probably far more familiar with identity, branding, and type than you even realize.  As a captive and consistent TV viewing audience, we’ve been saturated with branding. 

What speaks to us most from a mass medium speaks to us individually first. As actors we’re no different. When we first start out in the talent business, we take comfort in the knowledge that no one does what we do.

“I’m me. I’m the only one of me. I don’t want to be compared with anyone else.”

To be honest, that’s not the issue, unless you make it so.  And while it’s true no one does what you do quite the way you do it, you are, certainly at first glance, perceived as a very specific type. This is true whether you embrace this concept or not. You may as well like it at least a little bit, because without type no one will be able to identify with you or establish your value to their future production—and that, my friend, is a cold, hard fact.

So, your type is in large part how you read to others; how you come across; how you appear as your personae is conveyed to the viewer.  In short, it’s who you are in the most basic, broadest sense.  Identity and branding speak to your specific color, nuance, and creation.  ›

The Best Time To Pursue Representation is NOW!

Down through the ages, every would-be talent has said to himself at the start (or possibly even somewhere in the middle of his career), “I need an agent.” What often followed was typically a series of humiliations that would have tried the patience of Job and would explain why so many talent pack it in after a few months and often drift away from their dreams and goals.

Securing proper representation is key to building your career and achieving your goals as a professional talent. And while it’s important to listen and heed the professional preferences your agent may require of you, it’s important to exercise your own common sense, good judgment, and courteous professional behavior. These skills will serve you far greater than anything else. Ultimately it is your career, therefore it’s imperative you own it and own up to it. You must also run it. Contrary to what you may have dreamed, imagined, assumed, or been told. 

Considering it’s likely you’re only just starting out as a talent and may lack the benefits experience brings, or you’re starting over and at a loss as to what may be required of you in the industry today, we offer you the keys to running your career.  May you be wiser and better prepared from what you learn, and may your career benefit greatly from applying these promotional processes. 

All of this takes dedication, and some of it may not be what you want to hear or what you might have expected, but if you apply yourself and dutifully follow what you find here, you will have far more control over your destiny than you ever may have ever imagined.

First of all, to be clear there are two separate and distinct forms of promotion:

  • One to the various producers and ad agency creatives most likely to hire you as a voice-over
  • And the other to the talent agents to secure representation

To learn more about how to promote yourself and pursue representation, schedule a one-on-one Orientation or Career reboot session.  ›



Most of us have the idea that those folks on the other side of the voice-over session will be feeding us every nuance and notion. Now, this may be something of a lightning bolt striking from the blue, but you are not likely to get any direction at all! The direction you do get will be limited, if not flat-out confusing, which is why we’ve taken the time to define the limited vocabulary you may come across on a commercial session or shoot.

(See “The Most Common Direction: Defined” in Chapter 13, What’s Expected of You As a Talent, in the Sound Advice Encyclopedia of Voice-Over)

Far too many actors kill a perfectly wonderful opportunity to play and create by trying to second-guess the director or producer. To heck with that—how do you think the spot should go? Don’t think about it; don’t tell us what you’re going to do—just DO IT (there’s a reason why it’s called acting). Work it up in the lobby or the greenroom or some hallway just off the auditioning area, but whatever you do, play with it! Don’t sit and wait for someone to come hold your hand and lead you.

Don’t assume the copy (the script) is broken simply because you don’t get it yet. If you don’t get it yet, either read it out loud until you do or (here’s a novel idea) ASK! If there’s anything to get, I’m certain they’d be happy to tell you.

On the other hand, if you happen to know the grammar is incorrect or the sentence is actually saying something other than what the advertisers are truly driving at, by all means, tactfully let the powers that be know. But be sure you know that’s truly the case before even opening your gob!

Ninety-nine percent of the time, there’s no hidden message. The director is usually trying his hardest not to step on your talented toes by giving you a line reading—so give the guy a break. Get in there and have a ball. But if he has a suggestion you truly can’t decipher, tell him to give you a line reading! It’s not going to hurt anyone. It cuts to the chase, and everyone goes home happy. Maybe they’ll invite you back to play with them again sometime.

You obviously have the stuff—you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t—so let the director see how you’d tell this story. If he has a specific idea, he’ll guide you toward it—just listen and apply from there. And if the director needs a line to be said in a certain way, remember this: You’re there to help. In the meantime, be decisive in your reads. Be bold. Have fun. Stretch the canvas, as I like to say. Keep it loose. And be willing to drop that attack and go in a completely different direction. THAT’S THE JOB!  We’re all about service, baby.

You are truly capable of a limitless number of deliveries. Make it your mission at the onset of every audition and every session to discover just a few of them on the spot by means of play. That’s what you’re getting paid for.


Copyright © 2014 by Kate McClanaghan, All Rights Reserved.