It has become practically holy writ in the voiceover industry: The announcer voice is dead!
This conventional wisdom has permeated every inch of the business, and the evidence in favor of the argument is undeniable. Turn on your TV or your radio today, and 50% or more of the voices you hear have an under-30 sound, with various shades and tones of chipper, upbeat, conversational, hip, genuine and, “real.” After all, it’s common knowledge that anyone under 35 tunes out classic broadcast-style voices, ever alert to the unpalatable proposition that someone might be selling something. To connect with today’s youth, one has to have a conversation, not a pitch. Engagement is the coin of the realm. Promotion? So 1990’s.
Perhaps it began with Apple vs. PC, but over the past ten years the world of consumer advertising, (and, by direct association, voiceover,) has dramatically re-engineered its strategy to focus on the evolving manner in which the coveted 18-30 demographic responds to marketing. Agencies have become staffed predominantly by that same demographic….young, trendy achievers with a quick wit who are self-defined by what makes them unique. Naturally, the content of advertising has changed to keep pace, and thus the Era of Conversational Voiceovers has been born.
There is, of course, still work out there for big booming Voice of God types. It has decreased in recent years as the conversational trend has matured, but the market still exists. Nevertheless, even in traditional power-voice realms like movie trailers and promos, younger, more, “relatable,” voices have begun to edge their way in. The game has changed.
Time for the VOGs to pack up their Neumanns and call it a day? Not so fast.
Without a doubt, all of the market research indicates that under-35’s respond poorly to traditional voiceover styles and corporate pitches. This is not in dispute. Equally true is the fact that many over-35’s who grew up with classic advertising styles are more likely to respond to those familiar voices and pitches than they are to positioning geared towards an audience younger and trendier than themselves. As we age, whether we like to admit it or not, we all start to become a little bit more like a grouchy Clint Eastwood character, grumbling under our collective breath about whatever those young punks are up to today. I saw a commercial for a major sneaker brand yesterday featuring aggressive music and menacing looking teens modeling the product in a patch of urban blight, and I am now far less inclined to buy their shoes.
Of course, none of this matters right? After all, it is the 18-30 demographic that drives purchasing. So it has always been, so it shall always be.
Alas, such are not the times in which we live.
Never in the modern, media-age history of the United States has there existed such a wide and increasing disparity in purchasing power between old and young as there is today. Young people are getting poorer, faster, while those who grew up with ads voiced by classic golden-throats are padding their bank accounts like never before. According to the Huffington Post, youth unemployment in the United States now stands at a staggering 16% for those between the ages of 18-29.(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/05/america-youth-unemployment_n_3219671.html) This doesn’t account for those who have simply stopped looking for work, or those who are underemployed. This translates into real numbers, and should be a big red flag for advertisers with regard to their future marketing strategy. The New York Times notes that, “The average net worth of someone 29 to 37 has fallen 21 percent since 1983; the average net worth of someone 56 to 64 has more than doubled,” and, “The millennials’ relationship with money seems quite simple. They do not have a lot of it, and what they do have, they seem reluctant to spend.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/magazine/do-millennials-stand-a-chance-in-the-real-world.html?ref=business&_r=1&)
Additionally, advertisers tend to forget that consumers with less education, regardless of their associated limited income, are the largest drivers of household brand purchases for basic consumer goods. The struggling young single mother trying to feed her family is no more likely to be impressed by a hip and trendy commercial for toothpaste than a successful 50-year-old lawyer. Just as the lawyer might counter-intuitively find attempts to be, “real,” in advertising to in fact be inauthentic by their very nature, someone without a collection of diplomas might find them condescending. In essence, the echo chamber of the advertising business, now owned and operated by generations X and Y, may have created a self-perpetuating dynamic that is fundamentally ignoring those who are not their peers, and potentially impacting client sales in a negative manner.
Ultimately, the pendulum may well begin to swing back, as companies begin to realize that the over-emphasis on appealing to the current generation of young people is not justified by the economic data. When this shift occurs, the renaissance of the announcer voice may well commence.
Until then, have a listen to my, “Conversational Commercials,” demo. It’s on my website. Prominently.
Oh, and get off my lawn!