My wife and I like to play a game with TV commercials. We call it ‘Look Who’s Talking’, or ‘Name That Goon’ (They aren’t really goons, it’s just the best rhyme for ‘tune’ I could come up with). The object of the game is simple really. When a commercial airs, we try to see who can name the actor behind the voice first. After a while, you start to see the same names over and over. And it got me to wondering why.
Let’s just assume that it is a nice pleasant voice. There are probably some qualities to it that are reassuring and soothing. Deep voices often convey authority and can create feelings of trust. A woman’s voice can be nurturing and make us feel safe.
But when it comes to celebrities, I believe there is something else at work as well. And it falls into the category of branding. Whatever good feelings we have about an actor are transferred over into the product they are representing. That’s why the majority of voice over work is done by actors who play the hero most of the time. They at least have to be someone about whom we have good feelings. Which explains why Charlie Sheen and Lindsey Lohan aren’t doing voice overs right now. A crook and a schnook do not evoke positive feelings.
Keifer Sutherland is the hero of TV show 24. We look up to him, trust him and know that he will do the right thing. So, even though we many not know it on a conscious level (in fact, we may not even recognize his voice in a commercial), his voice behind a product lends those same qualities to it.
So, the next time your favorite show breaks for commercial, don’t run to the kitchen. Who needs the extra calories anyway? Instead, close your eyes, listen to the voice behind the product and try to ‘Name That Goon’ (again, they are not really goons, but my rhyme dictionary didn’t return many options).
Once you have the actor named, try to think of why they were chosen. What qualities does the actor possess that the advertisers hope you associate with their product? Does it work?
And if so, is there any product out there that can benefit from having Charlie Sheen as their voice. He could use the work.