August 18, 2008
Recently, I was listening to the CBC Radio One program O’Reilly and the Age of Persuasion. Terry, known for his insight into how marketing and advertising have forever permeated our lives, is an expert in the field and well worth listening to on a Saturday afternoon.
What I have written below is my interpretation of Terry’s broadcast last weekend.
When the traditional broadcast announcer just didn’t cut it anymore, advertising companies took a swing in a different direction, creating characters that embodied real feelings, interests and desires.
The late 1950s and early 60s marked the end of one-way advertisements that ceased to boost a company’s ROI. This decade also brought a host of changes to the way that advertisers started communicating with their audiences.
After a while, no one could relate to the stand-offish announcer, perched on his chair, wearing a tweed suit, and a hand cupped over one ear.
Announcers, who had broken through the proverbial “Fourth Wall” in before, were not performing their function as they had in the past; they were not ‘getting through’ to the public any more.
You wouldn’t envision announcer man coming to your neighborhood BBQ or taking their child to a movie. Announcers were not real in a sense and appeared to be cold, disconnected and impersonal.
Insert David Ogilvy
This is why advertising geniuses, for example, David Ogilvy, started making advertising more of a personal medium, introducing characters such as Mrs. Olson (Folger’s Coffee), Aunt Jemima (Maple syrup and pancakes), Charlie the Tuna (StarKist Tuna), and Madge the Manicurist (Colgate-Palmolive).
For example, Mrs. Olson of Folger’s fame was very effective:
The TV spokeswoman for Folger’s Coffee, made by Procter & Gamble. Introduced in 1963, Mrs. Olson (the late Virginia Christine), was a Swedish woman who seemed to know all the young couples in town whose husband’s never asked for a second cup of coffee. Of course, that was her cue to sell them on the idea of Folger’s Coffee whose catchphrases were “Mountain Grown.” and “It’s the richest kind.” The commercials ended in 1985.
And of course, who could forget the ever-striving Charlie the Tuna who was just never good enough to be put into a can of StarKist Tuna… How about Tony the Tiger and those Frosted Flakes?
What advertisers realized was that people sell products. Whether on camera or through voice-over, personalities sell.
These characters were relevant, interesting, and often faced with the same challenges of the average person who was listening or viewing the ad.
Now, just how do you achieve the same extraordinary results with a voice actor as with an on-camera actor?
Be sure that whoever you hire to voice your commercial has a voice that embodies the brand you are promoting.
The Power of the Human Voice
Getting a great voice actor on the job does more for you than just get a script read. The voice actor brings that script to life and is a living testament to the brand, using their voice to convey all of the brand qualities and attributes so that the script doesn’t have to, saving the copy writer time and making the ad appear more natural, thus, more persuasive.
There is nothing more persuasive than the human voice. There is something innate, primitive and personal about how one human being can affect another. This is why advertising with a person selling a product is far more effective than an announcer or text ad.
Voices can be warm, funny, insightful, authentic, trustworthy, taste, grace, strength, empathy, sincerity, interest, confidence, and so on.
Sometimes, an advertisement featuring a personality can become even more effective, particularly if the character or voice actor promoting the product is a celebrity or has celebrity status.
One of the most memorable and humorous examples Terry used was of Eugene Levy’s commercial for the Gershwin musical Crazy For You.
By renaming his daughters Ira and George, hearing only from his wife through lawyers, and losing himself completely in the whole Crazy for You lifestyle, Eugene’s performance conveyed that seeing the Gershwin musical would change your life or have a significant impact. His character, Norman, who had changed his name to Norman Gershwin, made all of this clear through the recanting of the incredible lengths he had gone to just because he was crazy for Crazy for You.
If that didn’t draw in mammoth sales, I don’t know what else could have done better.
Eugene Levy’s endorsement along with this performance as the newly christened Norman Gershwin was over the top, funny, and whimsical, the perfect combination for the theatre company to draw a crowd, regardless of if the show was playing on Broadway or at the local community theatre.
Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Vice President of Marketing and co-founder of Voices.com, the voice over marketplace. A vocal major and graduate from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario, Stephanie is able to translate years of classical music training, theory and performance into practical applications within the voice over industry. Specializing in public relation and copy writing, her presence and persona embody the Voices.com brand through partner sites like PodcastingVoiceTalent.com.