Dylan Tishler, Producer at Lotas Productions shares some thoughts on modern conversational voiceover styles.
Every company wants to be your best friend. Modern TV and social media campaigns are increasingly moving towards this approachable vibe and it’s why so many auditions ask us to be “conversational, non-announcery”.
Conversational…but what does it mean? Well, it means….
Who knows? It depends on the client. There are different levels of conversational that a brand could be aiming for.
Let’s examine a current campaign by Chase. Banks usually try to convey an image of security and trust in their advertisements. After the 2008 bailouts, it might have been tough for JPMorgan Chase to sell that image. Instead, the Chase Freedom campaign has a fun, upbeat vibe with indie rock music, clips of people doing the things they love, all supported by a warm female voiceover (Julianna Margulies) with the tag “Chase, so you can.” She delivers the line with a smile, a knowing grin. It’s casual and in some versions the company name “Chase” is less emphasized than “So you can”. How often does a company, let alone a bank, deflect attention from their name? This gives the audience the impression that Chase is selfless, giving you freedom, finishing your child’s science project, etc.
So, you’re in the session. The ukelele and happy whistling music bed is present. Your director asks “can you sound a little more conversational…like you’re talking to a friend?” It’s a simple concept, but it can be challenging to sound conversational while reading corporate copy. Most of us don’t say to our friends: “Hey Steve, did you know you can refinance your mortgage with great rates at ___ Bank?” Do your best.
How do I adjust if I’m not getting what the client wants?
In my opinion, it’s all about the cadence. For decades we’ve grown accustomed to the classic “and everyone lived happily ever after” – sound, where the announcer lands comfortably on the last word, with even pacing throughout. This style certainly still works and many companies continue to go that route. But when you’re in a session or auditioning for a major account or reading great, clever copy you need to stand out from the pack.
Sometimes it helps to throw away everything you know and to not revert back to the voice that you’ve been successful with. New producers are listening for a natural cadence. They are growing tired of the classic announcer cadence because it comes off as too “sell-y”.
Less is More
Try something different. Be simple. Try using a smaller voice with less projection. Change up your pacing. Experiment with a more monotone sound, less sing-songy. Practice reading copy like you’re talking to your friend on the phone. Be a little less exacting in your pronunciation. Investing in acting and improvisation classes can be just as much, if not more valuable than a voiceover workshop.
When you overemphasize how great something is, it can come across as disingenuous, especially to younger viewers. If you’re less revealing and have an attitude of “take it or leave it”, it draws in the audience.
Don’t throw out that announcer voice just yet!
The authoritative announcer isn’t leaving anytime soon. Actually, we’re so familiar with being sold products, that the authoritative announcer is now a comedic element. For example, the Bud Light “Up For Whatever” campaign features a big authoritative announcer (Mark Morettini) who is basically making fun of the indecisiveness of young people…who are “up for whatever, bro.”
Just keep in mind that “conversational” means something different to everyone. Some brands can be very subtle, some have to appeal to a much wider audience. If you’re really not sure it may be good to ask the director for a line read.
What is your approach to being conversational?