Having An Accent Is So Cool (Until It Isn’t)

By Laura M., as told to Hassan S. Ali

Photo: Wan Mohd

Hi. My name’s Laura, and I’ve been an account executive at a major advertising agency in Chicago for the past four years.

Something I should also tell you: I’m British.

When I first started working in America, having a British accent was like being the cool new foreign exchange student in school. Curious coworkers and clients all wanted to hear what life is like back home, and my saying even the most inane sentence with my colourful accent was met with amusement from everyone around me.

Creative teams loved me, because whenever a client wanted to muck up a spot, I’d simply push back with my finest Queen’s English and the client would suddenly agree with us, saying, “We trust you.”

All seemed good.

Then something changed...

After about six months, I’d get a knock on my cubicle wall from a creative director asking if I could “help out for a second” to record a sample voice-over for an advert being edited. “You just have that great voice,” they’d say.

Eventually I’d get more such requests to “lend my voice” to various in-house projects, from case study videos to sizzle reels. I was being asked to take time away from my account-executive duties to stay late after work to help these creative teams. All because I had a British accent.

Was I getting paid extra? No. Was I getting stale leftovers from client meetings? Sometimes. Was the scripted material any good? Never.

When I asked several other British cohorts in other agencies, I discovered my experience wasn’t an isolated one. It turns out many people with British, Australian, South African, and New Zealand accents are exploited by the creative industry to use their “sophisticated”-sounding voices in projects.

Well we’re here to say: Enough is enough.

We are more than just a pretty accent.

The fact is: Accent exploitation is not okay. If you agree, support the cause by sharing this video.

Thank you, and to all my colleagues with accents, stay strong.


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