Voiceovers ‘maketh’ the advert

Last week in my Marketing team was all about voices.  I work in Insurance as you may know, and part of my day job is to keep abreast of what our competitors are up to.  One of them, NFU Mutual. has just launched a new TV advertisement and as I am in the early stages of developing new ads for my brand it is of particular interest.

The NFU mutual ad is very different to many Insurance ads;

  • It’s not loud and shouty
  • it doesn’t have images of houses or cars in it
  • there are no dancing ferrets or woodland creatures on show to carry us along
  • And, finally, it has no price saving messages or NCD claims

In short it’s a beautifully filmed ad that relies massively on you engaging with the narrator.  Irritatingly I cannot pin down the voice at present – I think it may be Rhys Ifans (let me know if you have a better thought).  It is a rare (for advertising) adult to adult conversation.  The execution by Grey is impeccable.  Grey – London

It is similar in approach to a recent Hiscox advertisement for Insurance, and a comparison of the two points to the voiceover as a decisive difference.

There is character in the NFU Mutual ad, and the voiceover engages me right away.   The ad is called “It’s about time”  and whilst this is only used as end phrase, the use of the variant: “It’s about taking the time” works well with the measured pitch and self-deprecating tone. A brand that can poke gentle fun at itself like this shows itself as endearing and warm – a brand you can trust in fact.

Benedict Cumberbatch voices the Hiscox ad and for me its only at the end they get the value of the reassuring timbre his voice can give, it feels a little too dark and sombre – check out the skies and dimly lit interiors for example.  This gives the ad a seriousness and tone clearly desired by the Agency and client, but for me its a little too cold, despite the voiceover bringing it back a little at the end – does it live up to the ads title I wonder?

The voiceover artist in essence becomes, by default and ubiquity, the most important spokesperson for the brand – even more than the contact centre operators, branch staff and field agents etc.

The voice and brand become inextricably linked.  When the two are in harmony; then 2+2 =5 or more.  Just think about the Dave Lamb voiceovers in Come Dine with Me, or Big Brother without the soothing Geordie accent of Marcus Bentley.  The programmes would lack that instant recognition and extra ‘something’ that makes them work better/harder for the viewer.

There are echo’s all around financial services advertising at present of brands trying to build empathy through trust to increase active engagement with, and selection of, the brand and its offers.  Yorkshire Building Society is doing nice TV work in this area and the Northern tones/accent of the voiceover artist compliment the script and imagery very well in my view.

But what is my benchmark, in advertising at least?

The two voiceovers that stick in my mind which add significantly to the advertisements they are a part of, and which work harder by being well cast are:

The O2 ads voiced by Sean Bean – he simply has a, great, rich voice that is genuine, not actorly or preachy, it could easily be your pal talking about the great deal on top-ups – genius casting in my view.

But the real benchmark for truly making an ad has to be the early ‘dine in’ M&S ads with Dervla Kirwan … not just any voice-over, an M&S Voiceover! (Sorry I couldn’t resist that!)

I will post our ads when they are ready, but in the meantime .. I hope you enjoy these ads and my observations .. Let me know which ads you think have great voiceovers if you get a moment – its a neglected field I think.

2 March 2013

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5 thoughts on “Voiceovers ‘maketh’ the advert

  1. Lindsey Taylor says:

    I think the nfu mutual advert voice over is David Thewlis

  2. […] mutual crafted a lovely brand ad recently called “It’s about time”. David Thewlis in his voice-over adds a timbre and timing that build upon the beautifully shot ad. […]

  3. […] this is the polar opposite from the NFU Mutual or Hiscox recent TV […]

  4. […] Voiceover – it’s vital this fits the visuals, the CTA and the audience. The Sun Life ad illustrated above uses a conversation brilliantly. […]

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