Wednesday, June 13, 2007

How Long Should A Voiceover Be?

Currently finalising the voiceover on this commercial I've been working on for six months.

My initial instinct - make it as short as possible. Aren't voiceovers just some burbling sound that goes on in the background, completely ignored by one and all?

The Skoda 'Baking Of' ad doesn't have one at all. Nor does the new Sony ad. (Yes, I know some of you hate it. Screw you! Heavy-metal poodles rule!)


A very influential person here at BBH thinks the public is now bored of what he calls "57+3", by which he means a 60-second ad that consists of a 57-second visual metaphor followed by a 3-second super at the end which explains it.

Also in the 'voiceovers are good' camp you might find the wonderful new Golf ad and, going back a bit, Guinness "Surfer".

(Although you could argue these are 'soundscapes' not genuine voiceovers.)

So what to do? Well, the fact is that our ad does need at least some explanatory voiceover (it's a relatively new product we're selling).

And given a certain groundswell here against "57+3", and a wholly understandable desire at the client end to say some impressive things about their product, it looks like the voiceover is going to be fairly long.

At first I was gutted. But then I realised that, if I could make the words interesting enough, maybe it can work.

To paraphrase Claude Hopkins: "People don't listen to voiceovers. They listen to words they find interesting."

So, fingers crossed. (When they're not typing the 100th draft of my VO...)


Charles Edward Frith said...

There's not much V/O when whizzing through on a PVR but I'd be inclined to agree that tail enders are cliche and probably more likely to be ignored.

I wont bill you for this nugget :)

Anonymous said...

i think a good voiceover can compliment the ad, of course it depends on whether you have people talking in your ad as it is. i find storytelling voiceover very interesting and engaging.

Anonymous said...

the "engaging" VO, regardless of length, is the boring bit. crap ads have taught us all that. no getting away from it. so...cast a great voice!

i will solve this one for you. You should cast a black woman from the deep south of USA. i have no idea what you're advertising but that's a random idea you'd never have. black woman from the south=money.

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

Voiceovers are the bit people ignore unless they are interesting.

They have to be better written than any other part of an for people to listen...

Good luck!

I like that Sony ad, not sure if it matches balls though.

Anonymous said...

So you actually work in the VO of the ad, after you shoot it?

I tought it was only me who had this kind of bad habit, heh.

Surely it's even more hard than coming up with a line after coming up with a brilliant visual that doesn't quite make sense by itself.

No tips here, I'm just a novice but good luck guys.

Anonymous said...

Tail enders are cliche? What nonsense! So now some planner (I guess that's where this is coming from) has decided to invent some other rule to make the creatives job even harder. Before the 57+3 we were subjected to non stop wall to wall vo ads and how boring were they? Why does there have to be a rule? Surely whatever is right for the product and the message to be communicated is the answer?

J said...

57+3? bollocks.
A rule isn't a rule unless you stick to it. Just do whatever feels interesting, worth watching.
Fuck everything else.

Anonymous said...

That paraphrase of Claude Hopkins - were you perhaps thinking of Howard Gossage, who said "People read what interests them. And sometimes it's an ad."

Hopkins is good, though. I recently re-read Scientific Advertising and found it full of gems. He's not infallible, though.

"Advertising pictures should not be eccentric." Quite.

Anonymous said...

57+3, wall to wall VO, Bite n smile. It's all good. As long as it's creative, relevant and completey original. It's like all the new media people who have christened TV advertising as 'interruption media' and then bang on about how the consumer hates to be interrupted. I don't know about you but i'm absolutely fine being interrupted as long as you've got something interesting to say. Phew - feel much better now.

Anonymous said...

Are these the same new media people who 'interrupt" my surfing with their bloody pop ups? Now there's a new media category that needs consigning to history before tv and other so called traditional media

Unknown said...

Just an anecdotal observation from my living room that's kind of relevant:

These days one of us is usually looking at a laptop screen while the other watches something they like on TV. Voiceovers (and soundtacks I suppose, but I've noticed it more with voiceovers) are what directs attention from one screen to the other.

That Golf ad is a case in point, my husband looked up with his mouth open in wonder - having ignored all the previous 30 minutes of TV.

Anonymous said...

Good point Helen. Thats very true.

Anonymous said...

A voiceover should be exactly 22 seconds and three frames long, however long your ad is. Even if it's a ten seconder. Just say it quicker.

Anonymous said...

nice one helen - same in our house