Tuning In To Voice Over

Are you tuning in to Voice Over?

Whether you’re working in voice over (or want to) one of the most important things you need to do daily, is listen to what’s out there.

I’m often surprised when I coach those who are building a voice over career and they tell me they don’t watch much TV or don’t listen to commercial radio! And if they browse the Internet (and those annoying commercials appear) they always click the ‘skip the ad’ button.

No, no, no –  think again!

You must make a habit of tuning in anywhere you hear the disembodied voice. 

Not only is it great research, letting you hear different script styles, voice styles, and trends, it’s also free training. You get to hear how others are doing what you think you could be doing.

I want to talk about 3 places you’ll hear ads over and over and what to listen for:

  • Radio stations
  • Television
  • Online

1 Radio

Radio is still one of the biggest producers of commercial material, but radio stations vary greatly from each other. Firstly, most of their ads are produced in-house. Secondly, they seek their advertisers for, and target their advertising to, their listening demographic.

Tune in to any FM station and you’ll hear ads that cater to the age group who’ll be listening to that music. You can usually tell a radio station’s listening demographic by tuning in to the voices they are using to do their ads.

Sometimes shows with personalities who are popular, are networked. That is, they’re recorded in one place, but they’re played all over the country.

Often advertising in these high rating shows will be national in nature, and sometimes the show is ‘sponsored’ by the advertiser, giving them naming rights.

If it’s a talk station (and I mean commercial stations only) they have broader listening demographic. So their ads will be for products or services that appeal to a broad range of ages and socio-economic groups.

Listen for what you hear being advertised at certain times of the day.

Ask yourself:

  • Who might be listening to this kind of ad?
  • Why would they be listening?
  • Do the ads differ during peak hour, from the school pick up time?
  • Are the ads played in school pick-up-time different from when there’s sport reporting, for instance?


2 Television

All advertising is about positioning for the greatest listening response. Just as ads are placed in time-slots on radio, they’re placed in Television in shows.

High rating shows or high rating events (such as a Football Final or Tennis Grand Slams) will either be sponsored, or will have high profile national advertising and the media spend (that is, the purchase of air time) for programs or events that rate is often quite astronomical.

When you see an ad-break on television, don’t mute the commercials, tune in!

You could even record the breaks, to listen to, and analyse the ads.

Ask yourself:

  • Why are they being played at this time or during this show?
  • What kind of voices are doing what kind of ad?
  • What is the ad style – is it ‘retail, price and product’, announcer style, character or conversational?
  • What techniques is the voice actor using to get them through that commercial?
  • Does the voice style and the read style reflect the product or service branding and style?

Also consider how car (automotive) ads differ from each other. Some have extremely high production values designed to be played over a longer period of time.

Some are just created for an event, a ‘run out sale’ or a new vehicle launch. Tune in to how the voice reading a retail ad, differs from a voice doing an ‘announcer’ style ad.

What about all those very stylised reads you hear over ads for cosmetics, hair products, fragrances and fashion?

Notice how the voice actor has created a read that marries with the images and the sound bed.

Remember, the voice over is usually the final creative element, so you’ll be required to invent something that works with the images and the concept.


3 Online

Online advertising is huge and growing fast – and it’s incredibly varied.

Commercial advertisers with big budgets spend their media money on all 3 of these mediums but technology allows advertisers to target and capture their online audience, in ways they can’t on radio and television.

You may have noticed that a site you recently visited pops a small graphic up while you’re on another site – cheeky, but clever!

This, and other methods of capturing our minds via technology, is changing the way advertising reaches all of us.

However, where we hear voice over on the net has also grown and evolved.

The notion of being able to click away after a certain number of seconds has meant writers and creators of ads have had to find ways to grab us instantly; so we take the journey of the ad. Next time you’re browsing and an ad pops up on a video you want to watch, don’t click away!

Watch the ad – notice what it’s doing, and more important what the voice over is doing.  Did they grab you?

There’s another place online that you’re beginning to hear more and more voice over and that’s on websites of companies, big and small. They’re all using audio and video in their content marketing – this is a growing area for work in voice over.

We hear:

  • Explainer Video,
  • Branding Videos,
  • Sales Videos, and
  • About Us Videos.

When you’re on a site, explore their audio and video content – then analyse what they’re trying to do with it and question whether it works or not.

Set aside 20 minutes a day and listen to any of these mediums with a focus for voices.

The more you tune in regularly, listen and analyse what’s out there – the better you’ll be at working out what’s going on with script styles and voice trends. And that always equates to more confidence wherever you work!

Happy voiceovering!