The Tag

The Tag
Lo and Behold
     Now we come to the topic that helped me to know there might be a chance for me in this business. It was the very first time I saw a commercial voice over script. My reaction was severe; the semi-nausea was instantly created by the lack of Shakespearean substance. After all… there were only a few words on the page. To add insult to injury, none of it made sense to me. I remember it as if it were yesterday. The head of our voice over department had informed me in his raspy tones, today, I was to direct some tags. I had no idea of what a tag was. Guess what— my boss, the guy who had given me the assignment, really didn’t know what the technical definition of a tag was. 
     Simply stated a tag is a word or line that usually appears at the end of a commercial script, and the particular line does not change the meaning of a previous script that also contained, or was void of a tag. In other words, when an Actor does (record) a tag they receive payment of the then established tag rate. An actor may be hired expressly for the sole and singular purpose of doing the tags on a series of commercials. The sponsor may tag as many commercials as they choose to, without having to pay for an additional full session fee per tag, providing the tag does not change the meaning of any individual commercial. The VO actor is paid the minimum of a full session fee, and then each tag thereafter is paid at the tag scale rate— which is less than a full session fee. If the meaning is changed, they, the sponsor, must pay you for an additional commercial. Now if none of this makes any sense to you it doesn’t really matter. Your agent is the one who is required to know about all this crap. 
“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!”
“With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good!”
“Miller Light. Everything you’ve always wanted in a beer and less!”
Chevy: “Like a rock!”
Ford: “No boundaries!”
And of course the question: “Do you… Yahoo?”
     Those are just seven of the many tags that I could have mentioned. Each of them accomplished exactly what the sponsor’s ad agency was attempting to do. That is, become a household saying. Each of these tags comes from a different time period, yet all of them are remembered.
     The average actor might say how lucky these people were to get a tag like that to perform. Certainly, I would have to agree that a great deal of luck was involved. In many cases, we may audition hundreds of actors for one single tag. We at Kalmenson & Kalmenson might not be the only casting people in the country that are conducting a search for just that one individual who happens to be letter-perfect. That one voice who could be the “Bud”, the “Wise”, or the “Err” that came out of the three most famous frogs in the world. 
     As an aside, and as a point of interest, we were assigned the west coast VO search for the Budweiser Frogs. But during the course of the last twenty-five years, we’ve been able to find many different voices and sounds that have become easily identified in households all over the country. While we did mention luck on the part of the winning actors, there is, nevertheless, a great deal of skill and confidence that was also part of their winning formula. Ok… here’s their magic. Two basics.
     Let’s talk entitlement. da harv has had numerous professional experiences with the actors who were the chosen ones for all of the previously mentioned tags. They all have that belonging thing in common. They are all comfortable with themselves as people. They have all settled in. We can’t teach that. All I can do is point it out to all of you. These actors all believe that their individual truth gives them the right to influence our lives. That’s their breakthrough as actors. They are able to look the other person right in the eye and tell them the Truth.
The Kalmenson Method
     It was much more than a single thought, or a single time sit-down-and-write-it kind of a thing. My “Method” was, and remains today, an evolution; words that have evolved as have the time and presence we live with by making use of our God-given skills, and the ability to use every texture that our memory can and will provide when stimulated. 
     I’ve often talked about my amusement over what I found when I first entered the world of commercial voice over. I refer to it as the “what is it” syndrome. Like so many classically trained people before me, I had never even seen a commercial script, let alone attempted to direct anyone on how or why to read it. My break came because of my colleagues, the actors that were constantly there helping me. Admittedly, I’m only referring to a small and confined group. The fact is the actors I chose as my role models also happened to be the top money earners in our industry. Each of them had scored in just about every area of the performing arts. Film, stage, radio, and in no uncertain terms, voice over.
     And now we come to what started all of this for da harv. “The Method”. Maybe I should be calling it “da Method”. Then we could call it “da tag.” Use “the Method” when you’re in to do a tag. Lead in by getting the machine moving forward before you utter a word. Develop an attitude for each and every tag you audition for. Use attitudes that are part and parcel of who you have already become as a human being. Each of our successful actors who were able to win our big-time tags are people who were being themselves. So that’s where it is, my children. Be yourself and use our Method. 
And oh yeah… “ya hooooo, today”.
– HK –

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