Cutting edge discussion: how to say road names in a commercial

Wondering how I stumbled across this seemingly dull topic? You’re not alone. Well, pull up a pouffe and let me tell you…

Controversy

Voicing commercials for the telly and the radio can be a controversial business. An innocuous question can easily turn into spirited discussion, then heated debate and before you know it everyone’s shouting and crying and threatening legal action. Or does that only happen to me? The point is this: correct pronunciation of apparently simple things can cause MAYHEM. Take road names, for instance.

Colleagues

It all started yesterday. Funnyman colleague Rich Sweetman and I were having a conversation about how to pronounce a road number in a script that had to be recorded as an mp3. Should be it ‘A fifty six’ or ‘A five six?’

“Who cares?” he said, opening another can of Strongbow.

“Everyone cares!” I said. “Clients care! Their customers care! I CARE. It’s IMPORTANT. What if there are three numbers? It’s not ‘A five hundred and fifty six’ is it? It’s clearly ‘A five five six.’“

“But what if the locals call it the ‘A five fifty six?’ Eh? What then?” He was getting fired up. He continued, somewhat relentlessly. “What if it’s the A500. Do you say ‘A five hundred’ or ‘A five double oh?’

He had a point, even though I’d sort of lost interest.

Usually when there’s anything ambiguous on a script we endeavour to provide alternative pronunciations so that the client has all possible options available. Reader, I’ll level with you: it’s challenging; sitting there in the studio trying to think of all the multiplicitous, obvious, intriguing, surprising and downright barmy ways to say crazy names, place names (especially Welsh ones), acronyms, phone numbers – you name it, in an effort to furnish the client with every possible permutation. But at the end of the project, the client should have everything they need to make the ad as great as it can be for the advertiser.  So what’s the rule with road numbers? I appealed to Twitter.

Twits

Simon “Mr Radio” Rushton replied saying that he’d defer to local knowledge and common sense. Etiquette expert and household manager to the stars William Hanson suggested that to avoid confusion the A370 in Bristol should be known as the ‘Long Ashton Bypass.’ A Slovenian correspondent said we should always try to say ‘sex’ instead of ‘six.’

As you can see, we received a mixed Twitbag of responses. And still the debate rages on.

People just don’t realise the thought, care and attention that goes into something simple as voicing a road number. So next time you hear one on the radio, think on. Yes.

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Emma Clarke

Emma is an award-winning voiceover, broadcaster and writer. Want to find out more about Emma?
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