“I want to hear the sexy.” The joy of giving direction to a professional voiceover.

I love it when clients are passionate about what they do. I love it when clients give me direction. I ask them to imagine I’m the audio equivalent of plasticine; I want them to shape me into whatever form they prefer.  Many clients take giving direction to a whole new level; giving direction is almost an art form (like dadaism or this gem). Here are some of my personal favourites.

  • “That take was great Emma but could you sound a bit sexier when you say ‘fulfilling every patio’s algae and black spot removal needs’?”
  • “I like the way you said ‘terms and conditions apply’ but could you make it sound cheekier?”
  • “Your character in this ad is a chicken. Think Kate Middleton, but sassier. With a Yorkshire accent.”
  • “The read on this ad needs to sound very pink. Not mauve. Or cerise. And definitely nowhere near purple. I want PINK.” (At this point I did ask if they meant more Dead Salmon than Bashful).
  • “The vibe we’re after on this commercial is Davina McCall meets Jeremy Clarkson, via the West Midlands.”
  • “Could you say ‘we have everything your caravan needs’ as if it’s a Damascene moment?”
  • “The character in this advert is a sort of Everywoman. You know, the kind who goes on spa days, eats wholegrain, has a degree, drives a 4×4 and does daily pilates.”
  • “Could you do it again but this time could you do it a bit less shit?”

It becomes more challenging when clients – who could never in this world of God ever be described as professional voiceovers – want to read me the entire script to show me how to do it. And if the client’s first language isn’t English. Or the Skype connection/phone line is very, very bad and they sound like a stuttering dalek. Or they have a distracting speech impediment that renders the nuance of their intended direction completely and utterly redundant because, well, phlegm.

In these cases, I ask for a mood, or a vibe or a style they’re after. Earlier this week I had just this kind of convo with an overseas client.


Me:  So how do you want it?

Client: I want to hear the sexy.

Me: So you want it done in a sensual style?

Client: Damn right.

Me: Even though the ad is for DIY products?

Client: I want to hear your tits.

Me: But we’re selling paving slabs and barbecues.

Client: I want sexy. Like the M&S ad. Are you sexy?

Me: Not very, I’m afraid.


This is one of the best ads I’ve ever voiced that subverts that very style. I love this ad. Give it a listen and you’ll never look at a skip in quite the same way ever again.

Sometimes I’m asked to do ‘edgy’ or ‘mumsy’ or ‘educated’ or, most chilling of all ‘normal.’

When I’m in a recording session with clients (often a busload of them all trying to make a single decision by committee) is clear direction, or if they’re not sure what they want, just the space and time to experiment with different reads. Sometimes clients discover what they want by hearing what they definitely don’t want. And that’s all part of the process. Which I love so much.


To hear some of the stuff I’ve voiced at the dafter end of the spectrum, click here.

The image for this blog post was featured in this website, which is chock full of examples of client silliness.



dodgy translations

My audition to read erotic fiction

Translate these phrases into actual English and you’ll win a prize!*

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Emma Clarke

Emma is an award-winning voiceover, broadcaster and writer. Want to find out more about Emma?
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