Why you should hire a professional voiceover

The art of voicing a damn fine commercial has evolved. When I first started working in the voice world all those many thousands of years ago, the accepted style was very different from the favoured cadences we hear so often in commercials that grace radio and telly today. It’s changed a helluva lot. Back then, the style was hard sell, shouty and everything we said was italicised and in bold. We were like very loud talking fonts. Everything was about ‘the sell’ and the getting the listener to attend the call to action and well, act on it. There were loads of upsy downsy inflections and the delivery was incredibly stylised.

 

As media evolved, voicing evolved

In the noughties (oh, how I hate that term but what else to call it?) the style shifted to become more subtle, more undersold. Of course some (lots?) of clients still wanted shouty ads but as broadband, social media and consumer buying patterns changed, commercials changed too. Instead of shouting at customers to buy stuff, we ‘suggested’ solutions to customers’ needs and wants. This was done in lighter tones, gentler inflections and using a commercial’s subtext to do the selling for us. A conversational style began to prevail and the shouty ads of just a few years ago started to sound dated, desperate. As consumers became more media savvy, the style had to soften.

In the years of The Global Economic Downturn (TM) the style has changed again. Now we have a pulled back, ‘no frills’ trustworthy delivery, often featuring regional accents. These days, we want to reassure the consumer that we won’t con them, what they see is what they get and that the product or service being sold has integrity and customer service at its core. Ultimately, when we voice a client’s commercial we want to convince the customer that spending their money on our stuff is a wise, no-hassle decision.

 

Online advertising

The future? Well, the world of voicing is changing. Today, the future of the voicing industry is new media. Companies are taking control of their media budgets and are investing in online videos to show on their websites. These could be company overviews, product demonstrations, short promo films showcasing the company’s ethos and reputation. The key benefits of advertising your wares like this are: you don’t have to pay for airtime and also, as long as you’ve agreed license terms with your voiceover, it can technically stay on your website forever without incurring extra broadcast costs. The vocal style needed for this kind of presentation again demands a different technique. And for that, you need a pro.
The film’s audience is the computer user visiting the website and being kind enough to hit the play button. They’re in their own space (maybe at home or at the office) and are choosing to watch the film and listen to the narration. As a voice artist, it’s important to be respectful of that space – don’t shout too loud, don’t be pushy, don’t force your way in, don’t let the customer make negative assumptions about the client because of a bad voiceover. Of course, the media is film so this means that pictures form a large part of the presentation. For the voiceover, it’s crucial they don’t compete with the visuals otherwise the viewer will just feel overloaded and a bit bullied. And they’ll just stop watching.

Hire a professional voiceover who’ll let the visuals breathe, who won’t assault the viewer’s ears with the aural equivalent of a bitch slap and who’ll treat your carefully crafted words with respect. Research shows that viewers will tolerate poor visuals but if the audio’s dodgy, they’ll just bail out. Do you really want to hire someone who’s been voicing a couple of weeks and is recording it on a terrible microphone under a duvet in their downstairs cloakroom while wearing a head torch so they can read the script? Didn’t think so. So what’s the message then?

Hire a professional.

Whatever audio presentation you’re planning – on-hold stuff, commercials, e-learning, an online film – hire a professional voice. A voice who listens to their work, a voice who considers the media they’re working with and above all, hire a voice who has the skills to evolve their style.

Warning: this post might make you want to leave the country

A poem for our times

All publicity’s good publicity, right?

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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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