Monday, 30 August 2010

An attempted scam on our voiceover business

Recently at BigFish Media Voiceovers we received this spam - or scam - in our email inbox. The fact that it actually got through the spam filter, wasn't of the type of spam email we have all seen before and that it was personalised, took me in for a while.

Here is what it said:
"Dear CEO,
We are a domain name registrar centre in HongKong which mainly deal with the domain name registration and dispute internationally, we have an important issue to confirm with you.

1. On the August 09, we received a formal application from a company named "Brilliant International Holdings Ltd" who are applying to register "bigfishmedia" as domain names and Internet keyword.

2. During our preliminary investigation, we found that these Domain Names' keyword is identical with your Trade Mark, this is why we inform you.

3. I wonder whether did you consigned "Brilliant International Holdings Ltd" to register these Domain Names and Internet Keyword with us? Or is "Brilliant International Holdings Ltd" your business partner?

4. If you do not have any relationship with this applicant, we assume that they have other purposes to obtain these Domain Names and Internet Keyword.

Currently, we have already postponed this company's application temporarily. Pls let the relevant principal make a confirmation with me ASAP.

Best Regards,

Sponsoring Registrar: Link net Service Company Limited
HongKong Office
Tel:+00852 95 660 489
Fax:+00852 30 696 940"

After replying to state that we have no interest in registering a BigFish Media domain in other countries -seeing as we are a UK-based voiceover business, we received the following:

"Dear Sir/Madam,
According to your reply, we know your decision.So we will finish the registration of third party asap.If there are some conflicts on the internet with third party in future,we will not be involved with it.

But as a domain names registeration organization,I suggest you had better protect internet keyword. Maybe you don't need these domains, however I hope you are aware of importance of internet keyword which is a kind of network brand and a stretch of brand which can protect the right of real brand and owner from being infringed,meanwhile,it can dispute relevant domain names once register it successfully.Including and other domain names.That's to say,if third party register the internet brand successfully,they have right to dispute your website.

However,I think both of us wouldn't like to see this would happen.We know clearly it takes very long time and funds for successful brand established.So I want to finally confirm that you decide to give it up.Please confirm and let me know.I will have to complete their registration."

By now they really should have used my name and have known that we already have the domain and I was suspicious. Their website looks convincing but I had already decided to do an internet search on how to register the keyword BigFish Media as this is not something that I had ever heard of. And then, thanks to other people's blogs, I realised that this was a scam.

Quite what the scam is I don't know. Maybe they are just harvesting active email addresses? Or are they trying to pressure us into buying several domain names that we will never need for our voiceover business? Or the mysterious registration of keywords. Who knows?


Saturday, 28 August 2010

Get a good Voiceover Showreel before a Voiceover Agent

As a Voiceover Agency we are often bombarded by Voiceover Artists and would-be Voiceover Artists seeking representation.

TV presenters, radio presenters, newsreaders, journalists, travel presenters, DJ's, actors and actresses send us their showreels. Some are good, some are bad. Most are average and the vast majority add nothing to the overall sound that we can offer our clients; they just sound similar to someone who we already represent. And then occasionally there's the great demo!

What has surprised us - though - is the number of appalling "voiceover showreels". Reading the news on the radio doesn't make you a voiceover artist, so why include it in your showreel? Reading the travel news doesn't count either. Or reading excerpts from a Shakespearean play.

Sometimes we will reply to an email from someone wanting to be represented, request a showreel, and then never hear back from them. Ever.

But often we hear voiceover showreels which aren't voiceover showreels at all: they're a couple of voice clips recorded on a bad microphone on a laptop or even - once - on the telephone! We hear from people with bad lisps, speech impediments or terrible diction.

Then there is the monologue showreel which sounds like it's recorded in the bathroom.

If you don’t have a great voice, or a great presence at the microphone, you will never make a great voiceover showreel. However if you have the first two we can make the great voiceover showreel for you.

But please, stay off the laptop. And out of the bathroom.


Sunday, 15 August 2010

Who is the voiceover on self-service tills?

Here is an interesting article from today's Mail on Sunday:

Unidentified voice in the bagging area: So who is the woman behind 'unexpected item' warnings driving shoppers mad at self-service tills?

They are words guaranteed to induce dread in any supermarket shopper: 'Unexpected item in the bagging area. Please remove item before continuing.' The voice is not quite Joanna Lumley, Penelope Keith or Valerie Singleton.

However, the tone is unmistakable. It is she who must be obeyed. The robotic command issued by self-service tills in supermarkets around the country has become the bane of modern life.

More often than not the supersensitive alarm is triggered by a carelessly placed handbag or ­rucksack. And so peremptory is the tone of the voice, people assume it is computer-generated.

The leading manufacturer of self-checkouts, National Cash Register Company, is coy about the woman whose authoritative manner won her the voiceover job

Now The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the message repeated endlessly at 10,000 automated tills at five of our biggest supermarket chains, including Tesco, Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer, is rather more human than it seems.

But while the satnav industry is proud to promote its invisible stars, who include half-a-dozen mature British actresses with beautifully modulated voices, along with a few jokey contributors such as Brian Blessed and John Cleese, the identity of the woman behind the checkout voice is a secret.

The leading manufacturer of self-checkouts, National Cash Register Company (NCR), is coy about the woman whose authoritative manner won her the voiceover job. 'Her identity is a closely-guarded secret.

'We wouldn't want our competitors to take on the same voice,' says Helen McInnes, spokeswoman for the multi-billion-dollar American company, which has supplied self-checkouts to 80 per cent of UK retailers since 2002.
She explains how NCR selected 'The Voice': 'The person has been chosen for having a calming voice and an approachable manner.' In laboratory and shop studies, customers 'overwhelmingly responded better to the female voice'.

The Voice, although irritating to some, has to issue instructions in a non-confrontational way. However tardy your response, she is above displaying her own irritation or reproaching you as you attempt to cram your buy-one-get-one-free and money-off specials into plastic bags that refuse to open without application of spit and ritual rubbing.

And The Mail on Sunday has discovered a potentially unnerving phenomenon that will be coming to a store near you: The Voice is about to get personal. Researchers at NCR's base in Atlanta, Georgia, are developing a programme to customise The Voice's prompts and commands for individual shoppers.

The first people to experince this service will be so-called 'super-users' who use self-checkouts most often. So the next time you swipe your loyalty card at the self-checkout, it might address you by name and say farewell with a cheery: 'Have a good day.'

It's another reason to agree with Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King when he admits: 'Self-checkouts are like Marmite: you either love them or loathe them.'