I’m a casting junkie—I love casting voices for ads. Listening to how a disembodied voice can bring words to life is fun and weird and challenging and monotonous and confusing and really, really important. It’s where a brand voice truly gets its, well, brand voice—helping to differentiate it from the rest of the blah blah out there.

And casting is where all that mouth rubber meets the ear road. Or something that sounds more appropriate. So how do you find the perfect voice for your brand? Here’s an overly simplified behind-the-agency-scenes glimpse into how the perfect voice is chosen.

Everything starts with brand personality.

Is your brand friendly? Quirky? Inviting? Honest? Sarcastic? Bold? Wise? Trustworthy? Robotic? Etc.? Knowing this can be the difference between casting males or females or tweens or octogenarians or, you get it. It’s critical to have agreement on the brand personality before any voice search can begin.

Listen to a lot of voices. No, more than that. Still more. More.

An agency should be listening to a ton of auditions before they show their client any. Ideally, somewhere between 50-100, time permitting. This allows time to get more auditions if the right voice hasn’t been found. And to vet any voices that may sound similar to direct competitors or may be extremely popular. Extremely popular voices tend to blend in with the blah blah mentioned above.

Use union voices.

Honestly, the extra money union talent commands is money well spent. Union performers have done recordings before. A lot of them. It’s how they got their union cards. So they require less takes, saving precious studio time cash. They know how to take direction. They’ll easily adjust to any last second script changes that may occur. And they’ll give you a way better product that’ll make you sound like a way better brand. Unless you want to sound like a used car dealer. Which is fine, too.* (*Not fine.)

That said, the perfect voice might be right next to you.

It happens. It might even be the client.

Be open to pleasant surprises. Sometimes, a voice talent can take a spot in a direction you never considered. I once wrote a spot for Cleveland’s RTA. DC Douglas took the spot to Mars in the best possible way.

Ten years later, he’s still the voice of RTA.

And that’s just the tip of the casting iceberg. The key, as always, is to keep your ear holes open and cast like it’s the last spot you ever cast.