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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Breaking Down Voiceover Copy

I was going over a website about voiceover, and they were talking about how to handle odd directions when dealing with voiceover copy. They had a short list of ways to break down commercial copy, so I thought I would post them here and add my own suggestions about how to approach them:

What’s the main message? What are you selling?
This is the core, #1 important part of delivering copy. Take note of the product name, and the key description of the product, as well as the slogan or “catch-phrase.” What are the 3 or 4 words that the listener will need to take away from the copy, if they learn nothing else? It is the voiceover artist’s job to burn these words into the memories of the listener.

Who is the audience this copy is trying to reach, and what’s your role (character)?
By reading the copy, you can get an idea of who the audience is, especially when it comes to who would normally buy the product. If it’s copy for baby food, it is most likely geared toward a young mom. If it is for prostate cancer screenings, it is likely geared told older men. You can also look out for what the speaker says about himself. For example, if the copy says, “I am 35 years old, and I am finally taking control of my health,” you know that the message is being delivered by AND is meant for someone in their mid 30s (or older) who are thinking about getting healthy.

What are the supporting statements for the main message? What are the key words?
Look for words that are highly descriptive, of either the product or of the problem that the product is proposing to solve. Seek out adjectives and buzz words that make the product or the idea jump off that page.

What visual images come to mind as you read the script?
Voiceover artists are expected to create a visual scene with their words, especially when it comes to non-visual mediums like radio commercials and audio books. So seek out the words that help paint a picture of what the listener should be seeing in their mind. This is actually true for all of the senses- focus on sensual words that depict taste/touch (sweet, warm, smooth, crisp, soft, etc,) sound (crunch, loud, crash, bang, etc,) and sight (bright, colorful, etc.) And when those kinds of words aren’t present, you have to find a way to say the copy in such a way that it appeals to the senses.

What’s your character’s attitude? Serious, comfortable, flip, happy, sad, etc.?
Your character’s attitude goes a long way in creating a sense of urgency for the listener- what do they need to do, and how quickly do they need to do it? Your attitude sets the stage for what needs to happen after the listener moves on to the next thing. It also helps build trust.

What’s the emotional hook (if any)?
Does the tone of the copy evoke some sort of feeling from the speaker? How about humor, frustration, happiness, frenzy, etc. Again, what should the listener be doing when they are done listening?

What type of delivery do you think would be most effective? Strong, hard-sell, happy, smiling, mellow, soft-sell, fast, slow?
Try delivering the copy several different ways- what would make you want to buy this product, or trust this person and their message? You can even record it and compare tracks, and you’ll be surprised what these slight differences in read can do.

If you are a voice artist and have other suggestions or tips, please feel free to comment so our readers can learn from your experience!

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