In this age of content saturation, and competition for viewer eyeballs, what are the ingredients that make a TV and Internet commercial get seen and heard, rather than skipped?
Let’s investigate, using some of the top 25 commercials of 2018 as reported in AdWeek, and what it tells us about some of the main characteristics content and voiceover employ to leave a mark on the audience.
1. Story and Character
Elkjop - "To Give More"
This ad for Nordic Electrical retailer Elkjop (owned by Dixons Carphone) is about more than Christmas gifts. It is about story and character as two family members come together and discover more about each other.
The commercial works because it is always coming back to the story and it’s two central characters. The voiceover is subtle and underplayed, inviting the audience into the world of these characters, and hitting the right emotional tone at the same time.
It feels like the product is part of the story and serves it, rather than the story serving the product placement. As soon as the voiceover begins, we feel fully involved in the world and drawn in.
2. Tone, Style and Mood
Getty Images – "Endless Stories"
This ad for Getty Images harks back to a prominent fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1971.
Straight away the voiceover makes us feel like we are transported back to the sounds and flavours of the 1970’s. It feels like the voicover stepped out of a time machine from that period.
Of course, it is the artist and the engineer who have created that feeling, but it works so well it makes you feel in the moment, at the fight and in the throb of what was going on, as immortalised in the pictures. It makes the audience a part of the world, and that creates connection to the ad, making the audience want to watch and stick around. All because of the human voice.
3. Mystery: pressure, build up, depth and Invitation
German premium suitcase maker Rimowa was bought out by LMVH group. This was the new ad that introduced the brand to the world afresh:
The voiceover and the tone of the piece is full of mystery, inviting, yet without revealing much. The voiceover speaks softly to us with great intimacy, revealing different strands and not always connecting them.
It continually builds the pressure as the visuals become more energetic until the high point. We feel sucked in wanting to understand what is not being said, what is not being overtly communicated, as the commercial dances around what Mastery means and where it comes from.
As a consequence, there is a feeling that we are being invited to something more, something greater.
Which also connects to the 4th characteristic of great voiceover and commercials…
4. Purpose and Meaning: Challenging convention
Nike – "Dream Crazy"
Colin Kaepernick’s Nike ad was polarizing when it launched in September last year. From ardent supporters to those who were burning Nike products in protest…
Voiced by Colin, the ad is full of purpose and meaning. It calls on the audience to go for it, to challenge anything and anyone that stands in the way of self-realisation, even when that means risking everything.
This ad represents a striking moment, because it manages to convey the timeless: stepping up, realising one’s potential despite limitations, having a deeper meaning - within the confines of the specific: the present moment with Colin challenging the NFL and promoting awareness of systemic racism by the police against African Americans.
It is bold, and the voiceover constantly asks the audience: what is your purpose and are you getting on and doing it or not?
What these ads show is specificity. The voiceover is talking to us on a level that is one-to-one, where it could be someone close to us. The voice is not trying to be everything, like the stuffy voices of the past. Which is why we are in an era where there is an explosion and thirst for new voices, that give us different cultures and perspectives.
We all want to be told a story, connected with and feel warmth in life. The best commercials with voiceover do that. They talk to us on a deep human level and linger long after the commercial has played. They invite us to be more, to experience deeper and to live life more fully.
What are your favourite commercials?
To see all the ads from Adweeks top 25 go here.
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Paul Mclaughlin © Versatile Voiceovers