Advertising is a science. Assembling a great ad, one that drives consumers to take a specific action, takes time, creativity and a deep familiarity with the way human beings process information and make decisions. One way to do this is through voice overs.
It’s no accident that voice overs are used in so many advertisements. In fact, they’re so ubiquitous, that an ad without a voice over or with no voices at all can feel incomplete. This is because there are many benefits to using voice over talent in ads. The following reasons to use voice overs in advertisements are worth keeping in mind when assembling an ad.
1. They Make a Human Connection
Any ad man will tell you that making a human connection in an advertisement is of utmost importance. Most commercials are 30 seconds long, and in that 30 seconds, advertisers need to make a lot of things happen, but making this connection is high priority.
In an article on Forbes called “Great Brands Aim For Customers’ Hearts, Not Their Wallets,” branding expert Denise Lee Yohn writes, “To create valuable, sustainable customer relationships, great brands don’t sell customers on contracts—they seduce them with connections. Impactful, memorable, emotional connections lead to true brand loyalty.”
Ultimately, using voice over talent in advertising is a humanistic approach. In most scenarios, the voice over is talking to your customer. This makes them feel engaged, cared for, and appreciated.
After all, as Yohn notes in her Forbes article, “People decide which brands to buy and which ones to stick with based on how they make them feel. That’s why brands aren’t in the business of selling products—they’re in the business of forging close emotional ties with their customers.”
2. They Can Help Clarify
Ever find yourself watching an ad and thinking to yourself, “What are they trying to sell?” Chances are, the lack of a voice over most likely contributed to this confusion.
Sure, the confusion may have been intentional on behalf of the advertisers, a way to set up the audience for a joke or twist later in the ad. But sometimes these attempts can fall flat, failing to establish a connection between the ad and the viewer.
When you use voice overs in your advertisements, you can direct viewers to what they need to pay attention to in the ad, whether that’s the product or the handsome guy holding the product.
This David Lynch-directed advertisement for Sony’s Play Station is a perfect example of an ad that that failed to connect with some consumers because of its lack of a voice over. As Flavorwire notes, “We get that this ad…is meant to show us that playing video games is like living out your dreams. But, it’s not really. And ultimately, this is just a dog twitching in its sleep.”
While there are some who love the creativity and unusual quality of this type of commercial, it’s hard to imagine your elderly grandmother getting the point of this one. You can only imagine how a well-crafted voice over would do wonders for the advertisement, better illuminating what it’s trying to say and better making that bond with consumers.
3. They Allow People to Focus on the Images and Product
Usually there’s a lot of information that advertisers need to fit in to their 30-second spots: their brand name, tagline, and maybe a few details that tell more about their product and service. Of course, as with most things, it never seems like there’s enough time to fit everything in.
Using voice over can allow you to do this in a way that is easy for a consumer to digest and understand in a way the on-screen text can’t. Sure, sometimes on-screen text can be very powerful, as exemplified by this voice over-free commercial for Starbucks that features text on why voting is important. But generally, a voice over should play a supporting role in an advertisement, helping the brand get its message across while also making it easy for consumers to focus on multiple events and images happening in the commercial.
4. They Can Set the Tone
When your spouse walks in the door at 6 p.m. and you ask them how their day was, the tone of his or her voice when they reply will tell you a lot. A cheery, lively voice saying, “My day was fine” is quite different from a tired, bored-sounding iteration of the same phrase.
Voice overs do precisely the same thing for advertisements. Again, most ads are 30 seconds, meaning you don’t have a lot of time to make that strong connection and get your point across. You can’t afford to have consumers thinking your advertisement is funny when it’s supposed to be serious, or sad when it’s supposed to be lighthearted.
When the right voice and script come together, they can establish a strong tone for your commercial that connects with consumers.
5. The Right Voice Over Can Go Down in History
It’s easy to forget that voice over performances are…well, performances! Great voice over actors pour emotion, creativity and intelligence into their work. Sometimes these voice overs catapult an advertisement into the realm of a true classic.
It’s not unusual for brands to enlist the help of well-known actors in order to make their voice overs memorable. A list at Buzzfeed points out that Zach Braff, George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Queen Latifah have all contributed their voice over talents to major brand advertisements.
While not every commercial can afford big-name talent like the ones mentioned above, it does spotlight the significance of the craft and show how important a relatable voice is when creating an ad.
A few voice over actors have become popular solely because of their voices. Earlier in 2014, Hal Douglas, a voice over actor known for providing the narration to countless movie trailers, passed away. He was hailed in an article on The Wire as a “genius,” with some of his most memorable performances featured in the piece.
While not every voice over actor can be as famous as Douglas, it does give one something to aspire to.