To the uninitiated, infomercial voice-overs might sound like a complicated formula. Well, the formula itself might not be complicated, but it certainly is not easy to get it right.
First of all, infomercials, in essence, are long-form commercials that are presented in narration form. Secondly, infomercials almost always involve a narrator. This means that the process of creating one involves the use of voice over artists.
In regular commercials, there isn’t much a voice-over artist will need to say. The choice a potential client has to make will depend on the punch effect he would like to create. In infomercials, the voice actor practically takes the main speaking role and the choice becomes a much more sensitive procedure.
As one of the voice-over artists notes, “infomercials do more than give late-night TV viewers something to do. They are designed to grab attention and create a direct response that sells your product to your target audience.”
When looking for infomercial voice over services a potential customer should search for “ for a voice talent who can command an aura of authority and seriousness “ during their advertising campaign. The job of the voice-over artist will be to “adequately introduce, explain, demonstrate, and promote” a certain service.
Due to their length, infomercials are not exactly cheap projects. A potential client who wants to get true value from his investment should be aware of some of the basics of infomercial projects. That would enable him to make a solid decision when he has to choose a voice over talent for his infomercial(s).
What are infomercials?
As Biz Fluent points out, “infomercials are a form of direct marketing that attempts to entice the viewer to make an immediate purchase.” Infomercials are primarily a TV form and can last anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes. Their primary goal is to grab the attention of the viewers and as Debbie Grattan (above) notes, “create a direct response that sells your product to your target audience.”
Infomercials practically represent key building blocks of all TV shopping channels. The number of viewers of these channels anywhere in the world speaks volumes whether the concept works.
According to Biz Fluent (above, virtually all infomercials include several key elements:
- identifying a problem;
- the promise of benefit(s);
- before/after images;
- limited time frame to act;
- additional value.
Infomercials are aimed to present a solution to a problem viewers might have. First, they identify the problem, and then they introduce a certain product that can represent a solution.
The sales pitch of infomercials concentrates on the benefits of a certain product. They make a promise of what a potential customer will achieve with a specific product.
The main effect in infomercials is certainly in the images. Say the difference in french fries done in an air or ‘regular’ frier. The narrator or narrators are there to underline the effect.
Usually, the potential customers are given a limited time to act. It can be that stocks are limited, the price is less than before or that there are additional goodies that will come along with the product. Very often, it is all of the above. Of course, all this comes with the convenience of shopping from home.
Infomercial voice-overs – what potential clients should know
There is quite a number of infomercials that include the direct participation of actors or presenters within the infomercials. These are mostly recorded as ‘live in the studio’ performances.
On the other hand with voice-over narration, the narrators themselves are not seen on camera. Their goal is to “provide important commentary pertinent to what’s happening on the screen”. (Grattan)
Voice over narration could sell, but it can also “ explain, instruct, teach or otherwise provide information.” Sales pitches are certainly the main element of infomercials. Still, there is a number of other purposes potential clients assign to their infomercials.
When a certain company or organization is trying to present its work or a certain product or products, voice-over narration is usually the preferred method of presenting such information.
As Grattan points out, the voice over can serve the purpose of reaching “company employees, volunteers, vendors, contractors, clients, customers, prospects or the general public.”
A specific form where voice-over narration in infomercials practically dominates is online videos. According to WordStream, in 2018 more than 500 million hours of videos are watched on YouTube each day. At the same time, 87% of online marketers use video content. On the other hand, Cisco predicts that by 2021 the consumer internet traffic will amount to 82%.
In essence, “videos offer content that’s both naturally engaging and easy to absorb, providing the audience with a quick and interesting way to learn more about a specific company or topic.”
Choosing the right talent for infomercial voice-overs
Choosing the right voice over actor for infomercial narration often requires time and patience. Potential clients would probably have to be directly involved in making the choice. This includes probably devoting a good chunk of time to listening to candidates read the text that is part of the infomercial.
Still, there are some basic guidelines any potential customer can follow when making their choice. They could include the following:
- the level of experience of the voice-over actor;
- her/his versatility;
- the vocal and acting range;
- the consistency of delivery;
- clarity of voice;
- exceptional enunciation;
- natural articulation;
- good pacing;
- voice actor’s resume;
Every voice actor needs a certain level of education and training. Of the two, the latter probably plays a more important role, because it is an experience that gives her/him the ability to get into the right tone of voice.
Experience also plays a part in the capability of a voice actor to pick up as many diverse roles as possible. There, of course, natural talent plays a big part too.
Different narration material requires both different vocal and acting range. The more of either role a vocal actor is able to play, the more suitable she/he becomes.
Consistency with voice over actors means not only vocal quality and timing but also availability. More accomplished voice actors will probably be harder to get. The key is that they should fit into the client’s schedule, not vice versa.
Clarity of voice is not just having a voice that could be heard loud and clear. Voice over actors have to “deliver believable results and true human emotion.” This is particularly important in infomercials, where believability is the key element.
More elements to have in mind
Choosing a voice-over actor for infomercials or other services means listening to dozens or more of demo tapes. There, exceptional enunciation is a must. Sometimes it is essential also to have the potential voice-over actors read the limes of text ‘live’ to potential clients.
Yet another speech quality the potential clients should look for is articulation. The actor’s speech flow should sound natural and without injections of ‘umm’ or ‘uhh’.
Infomercials do not have such restrictive time limits as do ‘regular’ commercials. Since, as mentioned, they can last anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes, the voice actors need to pace themselves so that they can narrate the text within the designated time. At the same time, they cannot sound like they are reading their homework in front of a classroom, but as if they are engaged in a conversation with the viewer/listener.
A voice of an actor might sound great on a first listen, but taking a look at her/his resume will tell the complete story. The more repeat clients they have, the more the scales should tip in their favor.
Of course, any potential customer of infomercial voice over will try to get a better financial deal. But at that, she/he should always have in mind that being able to get the best fit for their project, might cost a bit more.
Yet, there they should also be aware that a voice-over actor whose voice the audience might be familiar with will potentially have a greater reach than can spell success for their project. This could mean that their greater investment in infomercial voice-over can reap greater rewards.