Changes in VO Styles Over the Years: From Big Booming Voice Overs to a More Natural, Conversational Style

Evolution of VO: From Voice-Over Announcer to Real Person

Once upon time, the big thing in voice-overs was that big, booming voice – the very polished, voice-over announcer type, with a strong kind of yelling-at-you delivery and feel. People listened. People purchased. That was simply how sales were made.

As times have changed, so have selling strategies. Most folks are no longer apt to listen to the very polished, big, booming voice – much less believe what it says. People today tend to instead respond to companies that focus on transparency, honesty and being real, with marketing that does the same.

This trend has definitely filtered into the voice-over arena, and has been there for some time. The big, booming voice-over announcer type of sound has been largely replaced with something that’s very casual and real.

So what does this mean?

Is the Big Booming Voice-Over Announcer Style Dead?

For starters, it can certainly mean less work for the announcer types, at least in the lineup of radio and TV spots. In fact, I recently had a discussion with another voice-over talent who has been in the business for more than 40 years. He has a great announcer VO sound, got his start in radio, and used to book two to three sessions a day for decades.

Now he doesn’t book anywhere close to that number. Those voice-over announcer style gigs have become much more sparse and he’s trying to branch out into other areas of voice-over to keep his business afloat.

The Voice-Over Announcer style is still used to grab peoples' attention

Louder, Hard-Sell Voice-Overs Are Still Popular for Selling Cars, Mattresses and in Sports

This is not to say there is absolutely no demand for the big, booming announcer voice. Sports announcers thrive on this type of style, especially when their voice reverberates throughout gymnasiums, colosseums and arenas. The style also remains common in several industries. The automotive industry is a prime example. Car commercials on TV and radio still tend to use the big, boomy, hard-sell approach, as do many furniture and mattress stores.

Here are a couple of examples showcasing two differing announcer reads: One pokes fun at the announcer sound in a conversation with on-camera talent, and the other is the “yelling at you” variety. Both are currently on TV as of this writing.

The announcer-type delivery remains particularly popular for local and regional spots. However, a national spot for any major automobile brand, by contrast, may have a much more polished and subdued delivery.

While the male voice typically makes a good match for the announcer-type, booming voice, I have had my own chance to use it on several occasions.

Below are a couple examples that show some of the range I am asked to provide for auto-related commercials. From a typical soft-sell voice-over announcer style that I use for a Ford Dealership, to a more sultry conversational style on a Harley-Davidson dealer commercial. Check out many more samples of other styles on my Automotive Commercials page.

On Being a Voice at the Happiest Place on Earth

One of my more memorable voice-over announcer opportunities was as the original in-the-park announcer for Disney’s California Adventure when it opened in 2001. I was living in Southern California at the time, so the commute was much shorter than it would be if I were traveling from my current home in Michigan.

When the park opened, I was there in person making the announcement for the company president, dignitaries and all other attendees at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. My voice was broadcast over the park’s public address system, in between my pre-recorded announcements welcoming guests, weather contingencies and starting time of the parade.

Over the next few years, I really enjoyed being the “voice of the park” and having friends and relatives ask me if that was my voice they heard while waiting in line for a ride.

Here’s a short clip I was able to dig up from a special event announcer gig at the Disney Park in California. I think this may have been a New Year’s Eve event.

 

      Sending Dreams & Wishes Into the Future

 

To succeed with the announcer-type voice, it’s imperative to get into the announcer-type mode. As with all voice-over work, you  have to really know your audience and speak to them. Announcer-type deliveries must be clear, enunciated and perfectly pronounced. In the case of speaking to the crowd at a Disney theme park, the delivery also required enthusiasm, smile and warmth – since they were, of course, at the “happiest place on earth.”

The biggest challenge for voice-over announcer can be believability

Both VO Styles Have Their Challenges

While the announcer-type style and the casual conversation style may seem as if they’re on opposite sides of the spectrum, they do share a common challenge. In both cases, the overall goal is to be believable.

  • As big and booming as an announcer-type voice may be, it still needs some degree of warmth and humanity so it doesn’t totally turn off the listener. The delivery requires an element that characterizes the information as important, and as something the audience wants to listen to.
  • The casual, real-person read also needs to be believable. It has to sound like a real conversation someone is having with her girlfriend at Starbucks about a place to get a bank loan, or with her aging mother about an assisted living facility (click to listen to some of my conversational demo samples).

Here is where voice acting comes into play, with the voice-over artist entering the reality of the moment and actually being that person in that particular situation.  Underplaying these types of conversations, and making them believable can be one of the hardest things for a VO artist to successfully accomplish, especially from just words on the page.  That’s where the “talent” part comes in.  But it’s still got to have vocal energy, billboard client names, come in under 30 seconds, and all the other things that are important in advertising. It’s a tricky road to navigate sometimes.

Some modern spots tend toward the snarky and sarcastic, featuring the befuddled mom, frustrated worker or similar roles. The trend is to create a situation of frustration, present the problem – and then solve it with the for-sale-now solution within 30 seconds, and make it all sound perfectly natural and believable. Visit my voice over demos page to hear examples of these kinds of styles.

The greatest challenge in these cases may be taking the copy that someone else wrote and truly making it your own. The words need to feel like they came from your own heart, instead of a script sitting in front of you. It seems easy. But of course, that’s why you hire a professional to do the work; since it’s their business to make something quite challenging look easy.

Both announcer and conversational voice-over styles still have their places in the world, and no matter how easy and straightforward either voice-over style may seem, both the larger-than-life- announcer and the “real person” require insight, experience, and just the right read to provide the most effective results.

Whether you’re looking for an announcer-style or more conversational tone, I would love to help you with your project. Please contact me today for a complimentary voice over quote or custom audition.

You may also enjoy reading these posts on similar topics:

“When You Need More Than Just a Voice-Over Actor”

“6 Reasons People Trust a Female Voice Over Male Voices”

“Voice-Over Narration: Do It Yourself or Pay for a Pro?”

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