April 17, 2015 by T. Gregory Argall
The people in charge of such things will probably deny this, but at its core, advertising is all about being the first to find the next new, exciting thing, and then overusing it to the point of abuse, until the target audience is so sick of it that they will eagerly jump on the bandwagon of the next new, exciting thing after that, just to be rid of the last one.
It’s the circle of life.
We’ve all noticed it. The slow realization that the person in the commercial you’re watching right now is the same person that was in that commercial for an entirely different product that you saw fifteen minutes ago. And there he is again.
When I see something like that, I think, “Good for her (or him) (S)he’s getting work.”
(Of course, I don’t think it with all the parentheses; I’m just covering my bases.)
Getting noticed by an advertising casting director is not easy because you’re in a room full of other people who are also trying to get noticed by the same casting director. But pulling it off once exponentially increases your chances of pulling it off a second time, and that vastly improves your odds for a third time.
And then suddenly you are the new, exciting thing in advertising and you are filming something different everyday and your career is taking off, but at the back of your mind you know they are already looking for the next new, exciting thing after you.
Many of my friends are actors, and they can all tell a story about walking into an audition waiting room and seeing “that guy,” the one who is in nearly every commercial on TV. They think about just turning around and leaving, because, honestly, this guy obviously gets every job he reads for so why try to compete? But they stay and read for the part anyway because they know that eventually this guy’s ride is going to finish and it will be someone else’s turn. (They also know that someday someone will think the same thing about them, but it’s best not to dwell on such things.)
It’s the same with radio advertising, but it’s harder to pin down since it’s not a visual medium. They’re looking not for a unique look, but a unique sound. But the voice can’t be so unique that it becomes unintelligible. Because of that, they tend to focus more on a unique angle for the campaign rather than the voice itself.
But sometimes, the voice is the unique angle.
I’ve hearing a certain vocal trend in radio ads lately. The Boring Voice Dude. I don’t know if this particular trend has only infected the Toronto area or if it is an industry-wide advertising concept. Or maybe it’s only on the radio station that I listen to. But for the last three months or so, Boring Voice Dude has been popping up in several different commercials on my radio.
Okay, maybe “popping up” is the wrong term for a voice like that; “drooping onto” is probably more accurate.
I have a mental image, actually more of a mind-scene, of how this happened.
I picture a long-suffering mid-level advertising drone who has been harassed constantly by family members to get his cousin (“the actor”) a job. The problem is, on the day they handed out vocal-inflection, along with all of the other attributes that together define a personality, this particular cousin slept in that day. Probably slept through the whole week.
Eventually, our hero, the mid-level adverdrone, is worn down by his nagging family and sets up a voice audition for the cousin. just so he can show everyone that the cousin’s acting skills register as a negative. While the cousin is in, recording his voice demo, some high-level adverdrone staggers back from his martini-and-cocaine lunch and hears the cousin’s voice. He decides that this life-suckingly boring voice will be the perfect revenge-booking for a client that has pissed him off.
And so the hated cousin gets a job.
And, honestly, as a one-off, it works. One, single ad with a boring voice droning on about something that should be exciting will get a radio-listener’s attention.
Other high-level adverdrones hear the ad on the radio and convince themselves that the first high-level adverdrone has found the next new, exciting thing, and they all jump on the bandwagon. (The first high-level adverdrone has since sobered up and has no memory whatsoever of making the decision, but he will happily take the credit for it.)
Suddenly the cousin is getting a lot of work as a voice actor, and his family his now hounding the poor mid-level adverdrone asking why he didn’t help him sooner.
(When it comes to hypothetical situations, I tend to have rather detailed mental images with a lot of moving parts.)
The lesson to be learned here is that any talentless hack can get more work than he deserves if he annoys the right people to the point of breaking, which kind of sucks for actual talented actors who are trying to find work.
Here’s the thing, though… I hate them. I hate these ads. At first I was indifferent, but now Boring Voice Dude annoys the hell out of me and I change the station. I have made a conscious decision to avoid any of the products and services which feature Boring Voice Dude in their ads.
Some advertisers might view ostracizing your market as a poor business model. I hope they view it that way soon.
I don’t actually want Boring Voice Dude to be an unemployed actor with his hopes and dreams crushed into dust, but if that’s what it takes to get these ads off the air, then sadly that’s the way it must be.
Try to be nice to each other.