It’s no secret that humor is one of the most effective tools for communicating in online video, as long as it works to enhance the brand’s message and not detract from it. One of the best ways to succeed, especially in short-form video, is to use effective voice talent, a strategy that can add humor while freeing the video to showcase the product.
So said Carrie Faverty, casting director at Sound Lounge, in a South by Southwest session called “Using Voices to Master Short-Form Video in Advertising.” Sound Lounge is an audio postproduction services studio based in New York City.
“You can use the voice with the ad to enhance the comedy,” Faverty said. “Humor is really effective to get your point across. It’s kind of a uniting factor.”
Faverty outlined three approaches to using voice talent to add humor to marketing videos:
Use a voice that lets viewers know they’re in on the joke.
For Faverty’s first example, she actually used a sample from a radio ad, “Mr. ‘Kiss Me I’m Irish’ Pin Wearer,” from Bud Light’s popular “Real Men of Genius” campaign. By itself, the script is a funny, sharp piece of copy, Faverty said, but by using an almost-sarcastic voice (voice actor Pete Stacker), and overwrought, Michael Bolton-style music, it ended up being especially effective. “If the voice talent is in on the joke, it makes the viewer feel like they’re on the same team,” Faverty said.
Surprise the audience by using an unexpected voice.
Office Depot took a script about a beleaguered office worker and had Peter Thomas, who has narrated National Geographic documentaries, read it with a dry, flat delivery that lent gravitas to lines like “he prints he collates, he staples.” “That flat delivery of funny lines isn’t what you’d expect from this voiceover,” Faverty said. “Because the voice is so unique, you’re paying more attention to the copy.”
She then played a version of the same ad as read by a voice actor who read the copy in the emotional, enthusiastic delivery of a radio DJ. “You know from the first five seconds it’s a comedic spot, so it doesn’t have the element of surprise,” Faverty noted.
Use a voice that’s the opposite of what viewers might associate with the brand.
It’s long been a popular and effective tactic to use a sexy voice to sell chocolate, or a quirky voice to sell investment services, Faverty said, because doing so takes you out of what you think the product is going to be.
For its “50 Ways to Get a Prom Date” ad, Sharpie first used Ann Scoble, an effective but not particularly distinctive voice actor. For the final version, they ended up using Ezra Knight, who has a suave voice that’s a throwback to 1970s soul singers. Because that’s not what you’d typically associate with Sharpie, that version is much more effective.