Have you noticed how advertisements have changed over the years?
Even ten years ago, voiceovers in commercials were loud and energetic. The goal was to get your attention quickly and get you excited about the product. Often, the screaming announcer threw around phrases like “act now” and “limited time offer” to create a sense of urgency in the listener. Not anymore. The days of the “carnival barker” voiceovers are nearly over. Advertisers are switching to calmer, more casual voices to get their messages across. It could even be said that these new voices are dull, sucking the life out of the commercial. So, what happened? Why are advertisers abandoning the enthusiastic, authority-figure presenter?
Theory One: Millennials.
Anyone who works in marketing will tell you that selling to the Millennial generation is much different than selling to their predecessors. Millennials grew up in a world of internet and smart phones, so they are less likely to accept advertising claims at face value. They google everything. If you make an outrageous marketing statement, they’re going to call you on it. Still, millennials don’t mind being sold to; they just want you to be honest about it. They want someone to explain why a product or service is the best choice. Bottom line: they respond better to a voiceover that sounds more like a friend rather than an authority figure.
Theory Two: People are just tired of being told what to do.
Like fashion trends, public tastes go through phases. It is entirely possible that we have just reached a phase where we are tired of commercials always telling us what to do. Like the millennials, we are willing to buy new products, but we want to understand why we should make the purchase. Consumers today have more choices than ever before. Think about it, how many of us do an internet search before we make a purchase? We compare retailers, prices, product reviews and similar items before we decide. Advertisers understand how much competition there is in the marketplace and have had to change their approaches.
Theory Three: In a world of noise, quiet is powerful.
Have you ever noticed that the television’s volume seems to go up when commercials air? After a while, you get so used to the noise that you tune it all out. You barely distinguish one selling message from another. In the midst of all this racket, a softly spoken word is more memorable. A calm, quiet voice is more noticeable and can even feel more trustworthy than a shouting voice. We may be more likely to pay attention to something different.
Theory Four: A harsh truth?
“I want to do voiceovers. How do I get started?” This use to have an answer of, “Study, take lessons, act, practice.” Not anymore. Now the answer is as easy as signing up on a pay-to-play site and getting auditions. But this has some serious repercussions. The untrained are flooding the VO market like gangbusters. Beyond watering down the business, the need for acting chops has fiercely diminished. Get a mic, set up in corner of your house, pay hordes of money for auditions and go! You are officially a Voiceover Artist. Those of us in the business for decades cringe. So, hate to say it, but has the lack of talent dumbed down the read?
Is this trend intentional or not? Advertisers have always had a bottom line. If they save money on the talent, they’ll be heroes to their clients. But, in their attempts to save, are they trading in trained talent for the untrained, causing a huge sound shift from energetic to bland and common?
Whatever the cause, it seems clear that this voiceover trend isn’t going away anytime soon. Advertisers continue to opt for the monotone voiceover instead of the previously favored dynamic host. They are choosing more “real”, friendly-sounding voices rather than over-the-top performers. So, what do you think? Is this voiceover trend more effective? Let us know in the comments!