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Commercial VO: 5 Commercial Tones to Cultivate

One of the biggest things to keep in mind when you are doing commercial VO auditions (or creating a reel) is tone. The type of product being promoted will make a big difference in the vocal personality they’re looking for. As with any other acting, it’s good to know and to be able to specifically describe your vocal type. Beyond that, here are some common tones to start cultivating for commercial voice over work.

The Medical. Ads for medication, supplements, or medical procedures make up a huge portion of commercial voice over work. Basic tone notes you want to hit are confident, calm, reassuring, and gently positive. Remember what you’re selling: likely this product is designed to relieve some sort of pain or inconvenience.You want to foster trust with your audience.

The Sleepy Medical. This is a common subset of medical products that requires a tonal shift. Ads for sleep aids or related products want to maintain the basic tenets of other medical commercials, but with an added dreamy quality. You want your listener to feel instantly at ease, relaxed, soothed.

The Perfume Seducer. As is often satirized, perfume ads err on the side of sexy. You want to sell a vibe. The promise is that wearing this scent will make you desirable. Nailing this tone without making a caricature is tricky. If you’re not sure where to start, try sitting a little deeper in your voice, adding just a touch of breathiness, and slowing your pace a bit. But the more important thing is to buy wholeheartedly into it. If you feel sexy, you’ll sound sexy.

The Young Parent. These are for your household products, toys, the occasional car, all the daily life products a typical family might use. The tone is generally chipper, upbeat, and relatably suffering, but in a cute, cheeky way.

The Professional. This is for your self-improvement, goal enhancing products and services. You want to be confident, dynamic, at the top of your game.

The Relatable Millennial. Very similar to “young parent” but with a slight focus on warmth and accessibility. Think lotions, natural beauty products, the Jennifer Anniston feel.

The Hip Non-Profit. Upbeat, authoritative, compassionate and youthful. Think about “for a dollar a day” commercials.

The Vocal Fry. Still upbeat and youthful, but add some dry wit and sass. This is for music and streaming services, anything geared toward younger generations that wants to convey a “cool” personality. The key to this one is to keep it conversational.

The Law Office. Confident, authoritative, compassionate but with an assertive edge. You want the audience to feel like you’ll go to bat for them.

The Comedian. These are the funny/cheesy commercials. Anything tongue in cheek, and generally more adult. There’s a lot of genre overlap, but it’s an important tone to be able to tap into.

The Announcer. Local PSAs, event announcements, anything that’s not too heavy. You want to be energized, motivated, friendly, and upbeat.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. Some of these will resonate with you more than others. Try reading different types of commercial copy to figure out which ones you’re best suited to, and get the pace and flow of each type in your body and your voice.

Knowing the trends and shorthand of commercials will be hugely helpful. Start paying attention to the types of voices you’re hearing in different types of commercials. Practice describing them. The more specific you can get, the better you’ll be able to quickly identify and adhere to the appropriate tone, and the better you’ll be able to market yourself.

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Advice from a Voice Actor on How to Enter the World of Voiceover
5 Tips to Get You Started in Voiceover