JBI Studios' Blog on Voice-Over, Dubbing, and Multimedia Localization.

Key Tips for Doing Commercial Voice-overs

What makes a good commercial great? Voice-over! An excellent voice-over brings an added dimension of character to any ad. The voice actor takes on the role of an expert, a teacher, a friend next door, etc...to share the good news about a product or service.

Marketing and advertising agencies know: commercial voice-over is the way for audiences to connect to a product or service. In this blog, we will share why it's important to know your audience and commercial type, tips for finding the right voice talent, and some important legal considerations when hiring talent.

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Knowing Your Audience and the Commercial Types

Before even getting into the recording booth, the voice talent and the production team should have a strong idea of who their target audience is. This will impact the performance style. For instance, if the product is vitamin supplements for seniors, it wouldn't make sense to have a young, energetic voice-over. Generally, a target audience wants to hear someone that sounds like them, so for the above example it would make more sense to have a mature, older voice.

If the product is a new mobile game for teenagers, then it would make sense if the accompanying voice-over is young and enthusiastic. A key indicator of who the commercial is for is the product or service being sold as well as the type of commercial.

Commercials loosely fall into three categories: hard sell, soft sell, and testimonials.

Hard sell commercials are urgent, enthusiastic, and to the point. Limited time offers, New Year's sales, and other "don't miss out" deals fall into this category. The voice-over is energetic, bright, and fast-paced so as to include a large amount of information in a short amount of time.

Soft sell commercials are more conversational, relaxed, and appeal to the customer's imagination. You can often see soft sell commercials for travel, luxury and beauty products.

Most commercials fall into the spectrum of these two types, where the actor performing voice-over usually does not appear on screen (known as off-screen voice-over). However, testimonial commercials are when a real customer (or a paid actor) speaks on camera and shares their experience using the product/service.

Getting the Translation Right and Working With Voice Talents

Even before doing the voice-over, it's important that the translated version of the commercial script be adapted so that it matches the visuals on screen. For example, if the source video has the company logo appear on the screen right when the company slogan is spoken, the localized version should follow this as well. This can be tricky if the target language has a different sentence structure than the source language (e.g. English which is SVO versus Japanese which is SOV). Thus, in this example, the script may have to be adapted so that the slogan is spoken the same time the logo appears on screen.

A note about the brand or product name: make sure with the client which version of the name they want to use, the original or a localized version (if one exists). Their brand/product name may have been adapted for a particular market, so be sure to check in with the client before recording.

When in the studio and listening back to a recording or if you're directing the talent, make sure they don't sound like they're just reading off a page, they should bring the text to life! Listen for any enunciation issues and to see how it makes you feel. Voice acting, just like any form of acting, should evoke an emotional reaction from the audience.

Legal Considerations and Trends in Commercial VO

When hiring commercial voice talent, it's important to know three key legal terms: buy-outs, residuals, and holding fees. A buy-out means a flat rate which buys the rights to use the voice talent's voice recording. Buy-outs do not offer residuals, which is compensation to the voice talent whenever the commercial spot is run. All non-union jobs are buy-outs. Holding fees are payments to a performer every 13 weeks to keep the voice talent exclusive to a product. Thus during that 13 weeks, the performer is unable to do work for a competing brand. For example, if a voice talent is receiving holding fees from Marriott, they're unable to do a voice-over job for Hilton.

When casting your commercial, it's important to know if a talent is receiving holding fees from a competing brand which could lead to a conflict of interest. In addition to legal considerations, it's also important to keep up-to-date with the trends that are going on in the commercial voice-over industry. Listen to hear what kind of voices are popular. See which commercials are getting the most views and the tone of the voice-over. According to some experts, more conversational, female, and/or ethnically diverse voices seem to be gaining in popularity.

With the above tips and knowledge, you'll be able to create excellent commercial voice-overs to expand your domestic and international presence.


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Topics: Voice-over & Audio Commercial

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