Beware of Conflicts of Interest with Your Commercial Voice Overs Clients

Published by Debbie Grattan on 09/13/13

So, what happens when you’re known in a local, regional or national market, as “the voice” for a particular product, store, or brand, AND a competing vendor wants to use your voice for their product too?

Here we get into another form of the question of “exclusivity” and how a voice can have an association with a product, or a segment of products. The branding of a product or service, which is so critical in today’s business world, is a reason we must always be aware of in our everyday work as professional voice over artists.

I’ve had this instance come up in a couple of ways recently. One in a local market, and another in a national context.  Each one was handled slightly differently.

commercial voice overs services

Preventing Conflict of Interest between Clients with Local TV and Radio Commercial Voice Overs 

In my local market, where I can hear my voice regularly on TV and radio advertising for several varied products and services, I have done work for a chain of mattress stores (we’ll call them Client A). I worked with an advertising agency and local production company to create an entire year’s worth of these ads for use on a monthly basis, basically targeting sales of certain products with certain times of the year.

Another local appliance chain (Client B), with whom I’ve worked as an on-camera talent in the past, reached out to have me help them with their female voice over needs for a particular commercial, when they felt the voice provided by the local TV station airing their spot didn’t meet their expectations. Client B also happens to sell mattresses, and this particular spot was advertising primarily bedding and mattresses.

I could have just done the commercial voice overs job, taken the money, and waited to see if anyone would notice that the same female voice was advertising two competing stores, selling the same product. But, that didn’t feel right for obvious reasons. I am very aware of the importance voice over plays in brand recognition, even in small to mid-sized markets.

There is a psychology behind creating a brand, and how the consistency of the graphics, colors, logo, music, and voice over (along with other things) support what an advertising agency is developing over time, to make their client stand out in the market.

Wanting to do what was right and in full integrity, I made a phone call to the advertising agency producer (of Client A), to tell them of my situation, and ask what their stance was. I had not signed any kind of “non-compete” clause with them, so legally, I suppose, I would’ve been free to do whatever I wanted and collect a check. However, the moral stance on this bothered me, and even though I wanted to come to the rescue of Client B to aid them with their current request, I also felt an obligation to Client A, and didn’t want to jeopardize their advertising strategy or my working relationship with them.

As it worked out, indeed, I was correct in assuming that this was a conflict of interest. The advertising agency producer was extremely grateful that I had not crossed this line, and caused harm to his relationship with Client A and the brand strategy that had already been put into play. My Client B understood my position, and respected that I felt it was inappropriate to voice the same type of spot for competing stores within a small market.

In order to help Client B get what they needed, I recommended a couple of female voice over talent options that I felt would be a good fit for their current spot. They ended up picking one of those options and were very happy with the result!

As anyone who’s been in business for awhile knows, it pays to use “long-term thinking” in situations like this and avoid the temptation to be short-sighted or just plain greedy. I feel very fortunate that I have enough of a flow of work coming to me all the time that I can do the right thing and still be able to pay the bills.

I think it is important to be aware of the fact that there will be times when you will have to use your own integrity and common sense to say “No” to professional voice over jobs even though the people hiring you aren’t aware of the conflict of interest . It can be a fine line, but it’s best to err on the side of not crossing the line. Reputation counts!

Debbie Grattan is a Female Narration Specialist and Voiceover Actor who has recorded commercial voice overs for more than 20 years. To date she has worked on more than 10,000 projects and has partnered with hundreds of production companies, marketing and advertising firms, commercial voice overs recording studios and corporate/business clients around the United States and abroad. Check out her Professional Voice-over Talent Demos and request a complimentary custom professional voice-over talent services audition for an upcoming project.

3 comments on “Beware of Conflicts of Interest with Your Commercial Voice Overs Clients

  1. Jeremy Sobeck on

    You did what you had to do and I admire you for that. It would have been easy for anyone with less integrity to just jump right in and take the offer. But, as you said, it always pays to use long-term thinking and of course practice professionalism inside the profession you pay most respect. Sometimes the rules aren’t vividly written but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not to be followed. What you did when you refused the offer just surfaces your professionalism and respect not only for your client but more importantly for your self as an individual.

  2. Jeremy Sobeck on

    Nowadays it’s rarely that we see people who will refuse a good amount for professional etiquette. But honoring your profession is honoring youself. You dont really judge a person by what he does but rather by the decisions he makes. I admire your professionalism Ms. Debbie!

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