In the 1960’s Wolfman Jack was arguably the biggest radio personality in the world, with his larger than life character, gravelly delivery, catchphrases and sound effects. (Go ahead, I know you want to howl!)

Later in the decade the fast talking, dapper, cliché spitting host was all the rage. Then in the 70’s it was the smooth, cool laid back sound. The 80’s saw the dominance of the “Big Voice Guy.” Big Voice was the order of the day even through the 90’s and into the new Millennium.

Today, another shift is taking place. Big voice guy is no longer the order of the day. Is there still a place for big voice guy? Absolutely. But quietly and steadily, “Guy Next Door” is taking over.

The honest, trustworthy, relatable and believable guy next door.

Partly thanks to the Internet, the generations after the baby boomer have become steadily but gradually more mistrustful and skeptical of media, and they are getting tougher and tougher for advertisers and broadcasters to reach in any meaningful way. The pressure is on today’s talent to be believable. They need to tell stories in which  the listener can picture themselves as the star. They need to hear a voice that sounds like them, one that could be them.

The same applies to the voice over business. I’m not saying James Earl Jones is going to find it difficult to get work, but think about the most popular ad campaigns right now. The Pure Michigan campaign with the voice of Tim Allen. The Verizon FiOS campaign featuring Modern Family’s Ty Burrell. Basically any Apple ad. Is it the deep soothing quality of Ty’s voice that makes those particular ads work? No. It’s the believability of his delivery (and some pretty good writing). As a voice talent it can be a challenge when a client ask for “Tim Allen.” Do they really want Tim Allen, or do they want the same believability and sincerity?

That is a big part of the reason we are beginning to see so many celebrity voices pitching products today. Ironically, A-list actors are just that, very good actors. To be truly believable, you must be a good actor.

That is the challenge to today’s voice actors, broadcasters and programmers. Learning to act.

As an advertiser you can be sure it is equally as challenging.

Keep it in mind the next time you ask a voice talent to give you his best “Tim Allen” read. Prepare yourself for a Tim Allen impression. Which quite frankly, is tougher to pull off than being asked to “act  believable.”

Image Credit : ABC/Peter “Hopper” Stone

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