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Enterprise Marketing & Promotions Management

Is the Voice Over Over?

By / April 2016


Last week Ace Metrics, a video analytics company, released its “Top Ten Breakthrough TV ads of the 1st quarter of 2016”. The company analyzes viewer reactions to ads on a variety of attributes such as persuasion, relevance, likability, attention and information. The winning ads run the gamut from Android to Audi, Doritos to Dick’s. Microsoft to M&M’s.

Besides being a collection of excellent executions, they share another attribute: the almost complete absence of an announcer voice over, the mainstay of generations of commercials. Seven spots have absolutely no voice over, two have a single last line V.O. mention of the advertiser, and one where the voice over is talking to the people on camera and not the viewer.

Can this be just a coincidence? I think not. I attribute it to the influence of the millennials.

The traditional announcer voice over is an authority figure: a teacher; a father; the voice of God (i.e. Morgan Freeman). His role (and it is rarely “her” role) is to instruct you on how to recognize a problem (yellowing kitchen floors/stubborn clothing stains) and how to solve it (many P&G products). This genre even had a name, “problem/solution”. The omniscient announcer sold you a product and, more often than not, you bought it. However, today’s millennial doesn’t respond to authority figures and resents advertising that “sells”.

A second millennial attribute is the demise of the phone call. Every communication is in some form of texting, photos and emojis. There is no need for speech when graphic visuals tell the story. That’s why so many of the breakthrough commercials utilize substantial amounts of text to convey copy points.

But before we consign the V.O. to RIP, let’s remember one thing. Everyone agrees that the most successful advertising tells a story. And a good story needs a good storyteller. If the story is true and the tone of voice is real, perhaps a spoken word is worth a thousand pictures.

Contributed by Murray Skurnik, Retired Mad Man
More than half a century in advertising as a copywriter, radio/TV producer and creative director. Big agency stints at Benton & Bowles, Ketchum McCloud & Grove and J. Walter Thompson. Thirty years of experience in the supermarket business, creating campaigns for A&P, Winn-Dixie and Price Chopper and a dozen others.


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