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Make your station voice a “star” – an interview with VOX, Inc.’s Wes Stevens

Are all station voices created equal? Not according to Wes Stevens.

Wes is president of VOX, Inc., an LA voice talent company – with some very special talent on board.

Check out this short interview with Wes. The transcript below is highlights-only.

Wes, what’s different about the voices you represent?

Mark, we represent a wide array of celebrities. A-list, B-list, as well as pop culture celebrities and scale performers. So it’s both names you would and wouldn’t recognize.

I’ve always been amazed that many of the most popular voices on television but not on radio are, as you say, pop culture character-type voices. They’re so recognizable and they make such an impression and yet they’re so rarely used by radio stations for their own production and their own imaging.

Why do you think that is? I know cost is one factor, but often they’re not that expensive relative to what you get in return, right?

I think the imprint and the impact is significant.

Take Sally Struthers. So we all giggle a little bit about the “dollar a day, save the child” campaign. But it is an important social responsibility message and that message inundated our popular culture for a while. Now here’s a woman who would get on the phone to ask for information and the Operator will ask, “Wait a minute, are you Sally Struthers?” And I think at a radio station if I was a guy in charge of imaging, that’s the kind of impact I want instantly.

I want someone who is going to cut through the din of the media chaos out there, because I want the listener to go, hey wait a minute. Who is that? I recognize that!

Listeners are going spend time trying to figure out who that is and when they finally figure it out they’re always going to pat themselves on the back and say “I know that’s so-and-so.”

When that happens, your message got through on a whole other level of retention and recognizability than if you just hired voice talent A, B or C.

I think the celebrity voice, especially if it hits this pop culture niche that is specific to the demographic and sociographic of a particular station, I think it can have definitive resonance.

I think the reason radio stations don’t do this more – and I find this all the time just in booking clients on commercials, in animated projects, or documentaries – is that people don’t know they’re out there. They don’t know they’re interested.

Radio stations sometimes spend a lot of money marketing themselves to potential listeners, and it’s so difficult standing out from your competitor when both stations are playing similar music.

But the voice, the name-brand people VOX represents, come to the table with their own identities which can magnify the station’s brand image and really bust through the clutter and differentiate that station from an also-ran.

Right. Yeah. Each individual celebrity in my mind has a very specific brand with a very specific group of consumers. You can match up what group the celebrity relates to and what group this station relates to. Then, you can easily identify the celebrities that match that group, speaks to those listeners, and will cut through and add a certain sense of credibility, excitement, and likeability.

It’s only going to improve the message if you’ve got someone who listeners relate to, someone listeners want to be more like or want to know. This can only work to a radio station’s advantage.

Radio is the most intimate form of media in that it is primarily one-on-one. It’s not normally listened to in a group. It’s in your car or it’s on a set of headphones. The voice is inside your head. You can’t get much more intimate than that.

So give me an example. If you’re a radio listener, who are some talents who might be appropriate matches for radio stations and are not outside a radio station or group’s budget?

David Hasselhoff is a client of mine, and people love David. The guy is a huge international start any way you shake it. His last two music videos online were hit 17 million times.

I would love to have David Hasselhoff as a radio voice!

You have to find a celebrity like David whose tongue is firmly planted in cheek and is more than willing to have fun with his image and with who he is.

Or take John Ratzenberger, who was Cliff on Cheers. John’s voice is instantly recognizable. He’s somebody that we all still remember from the show. We still remember him as a buddy. He always had these interesting “facts.” Why there isn’t a radio campaign out there using Cliff and his “facts” I don’t know.

Star Trek’s George Takei is another great example of someone who has taken their of popular culture, tongue-in-cheek persona to the radio. I mean, he’s on Howard Stern all the time. And George has had a great time with that. He got it and has played with it. But why he’s not showing up on other stations, I don’t know. It’s interesting.

Adam West from Batman. This guy –

Oh, Adam West would be awesome!

I think Adam would have a good laugh at this, and I’m not kidding. I think he looks in the mirror every morning and says, “I am Batman.” You know? And screw the rest of them. Because Adam is the original Batman. These other guys are, you know, imitations.

Give me just a couple others that are kind of in that category.

Someone like a Gloria Gaynor. If you’ve got a dance station you can get the original singer of “I Will Survive,” a Grammy Award winner. No reason why she can’t be doing stuff like that.

And I have a client, Mindy Sperling, who is Frau Farbissina in all the Austin Powers movies, and she’s got this amazing range of voices and Improv ability.

I’ve got a client, John DiMaggio, who played Bender on Futurama, and John’s got a million and one voices. And somebody who was willing to play could put together an amazing imaging campaign with a guy like John.

Someone I get called about a lot is Gary Cole who was the boss in Office Space. And I don’t know…

“TPS reports!”

I don’t know why someone hasn’t played off of that whole persona. There are variations on the theme that can be played with and you could have a lot of fun.

It’s fascinating looking at your client list in part because in a few cases I didn’t even realize they were still alive!

Okay. All right. That’s really a crime. Yeah. It’s our job to keep people aware. Like I said earlier, I don’t think people are aware that many of these folks are out there, and in many cases all you have to do is ask.

For example, Jm J. Bullock. I saw him on your roster.

Jm J. – I guarantee you he would do this.

So someone call me about Jim J. Let’s put together the gayest radio campaign on the planet. I think that’s a good idea!

You can reach VOX at 323-655-8699 (VOXX) or by email.

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