Interview: Voices.com’s David Ciccarelli on Voice Talent and Marketplaces

When I first launched MarketersStudio.com, it was 2005, and Inside the Actors Studio was a big deal. I had recently left eMarketer where I had interviewed 175 executives and authors for their newsletters. I thought this blog would be all about interviews. And then I started blogging, and all such plans fell apart. So much for Inside the Marketers Studio as I intended it.

Having met with Voices.com CEO David Ciccarelli for fried chicken and pie in Brooklyn last month, I asked if he would be up for elaborating on our conversation and doing a feature about his voice talent marketplace. He was kind enough to get back to me far faster than I published his responses. As I most recently have been running marketing for Storyhunter, a video production marketplace, I was particularly interested in his take on marketplace dynamics, as well as the unique opportunities for how voice talent is used.

Serial Marketer: How are people using voice talent most commonly today?

David Ciccarelli: When people think of voiceover, they think radio and television commercials. However, traditional broadcast ads only account for about 10% of the $4.4-billion voiceover market. Nowadays, voiceover is being used in a variety of business applications such as Internet videos, e-learning tutorials, and podcasts.

Our 2018 trends report revealed that creative producers are looking for human voices, not bots to power artificial intelligence applications. As a society, we like to hear people that sound just like us which is why natural language, native-to-the-region accents, and friendly voices best resonate with audiences. Overly robotic voices are confined to use for navigation (think turn-by-turn directions or confirming the elevator floor you’re on) or information (think using a kiosk such as an ATM). With any activity that requires listening for more than 5 seconds, people like hearing from other people. Enter the voice actors that read the script and really bring it to life.

SM: What’s the most interesting project you’ve come across – or one that really surprised you – that was booked through your platform?

DC: Personally, I enjoyed the Crave Media production for National Geographic. It was smart, clean, and well written. A good voiceover should blend into the rest of the production and help tell the story. In a sense, the listener consciously hears the voice but is immersed in the visuals that they forget that someone is speaking to them. The listener can absorb the content fully.

SM: You have an amazing marketplace of 200,000 voice actors. What has been most effective at growing that community over the years?

DC: Early on, we grew by reaching out to voice actors one actor at a time. Through personalizing these interactions, we were able to establish a rapport and create meaningful relationships with the people who wanted to help us build a world-class platform for hiring voice actors. We have also focused on creating content for our audience to discover, learn from, and contribute to through our company blogs and podcasts. This has made it easy to foster community at Voices.com, grow in our thought leadership role, and draw people in to see what we have to offer. For community to exist, there needs to be conversation and a way to join that conversation. Being accessible to our customers and listening to their ideas was foundational to building community.

SM: Early on, how did you handle the chicken & egg conundrum of growing the buy and sell sides simultaneously?

DC: On the supply side, my wife and co-founder, Stephanie, spent the better part of our first quarter in business contacting voice actors individually and inviting them to use the platform. The versatile talent spoke different languages, could perform various accents, and represented multiple voice ages that would help us meet the increasingly complex needs of our expanding client base. Initially, Stephanie had been the only voice for our clients’ projects. As more talent joined the platform, clients could now choose from a variety of voice actors in North America for their projects.

On the buy side, we migrated many clients from our studio days to our new offering. Even so, getting one job posted to the website a day for our voice actors to audition for was a challenge at first. We did everything from cold calls to online advertising to bring more businesses to the marketplace to hire voice talent. Once there was a critical mass of voice actors, it was much easier to attract a wide range of clients with a variety of voiceover projects.

Thanks so much to David for sharing his experience. If you know someone who’d make a great feature for this interview series, including yourself, contact me, and we can explore doing this more often.