Why Some Voice-Talent Didn't Win:
A lot of entries in this week's commercial contest.
But it seems some people may have forgotten this was a commercial. Their extended reads sort of droned on. That might have been to satisfy the Director’s Notes call for being “smooth and sexy.” But a commercial also needs to hold the viewer’s interest.
Perhaps to that end, some people went too fast and it was hard to keep up. That takes things too far in the other direction. Again, viewer involvement (which includes understanding what’s being said and going on) is paramount. And there are types of energy besides speed.
Then, there were some who made is sound like a promo or a game show introduction.
And finally, there were some who sounded forced – trying too hard. Which, as it happens, is not an effective approach to romance, either.
To boot, whether entrants were fast, slow, “promo announcer” style, or forced, the vast majority of entrants this week were just too matter-of-fact, which (in a sense) is smooth, but lacking the warmth and sexiness desired.
One of the reasons commercials work is such fun is that it is often quite a challenge. But never fear, with practice and insight, the challenges can be met.
Then it comes down to little things that, along the way, should become second nature in all voice-over work.
One of these things is enunciation, which is important to the listener understanding. Many people missed the T’s in "advantage" and/or in "enthusiasts." TIP: While enunciation might be clear enough to someone who knows the script and is paying full attention, that’s not the case with a commercial’s audience. Also words can get buried when music or background sounds are added, or if heard in a noisy environment. So clarity is always important.
Another issue might be the pronunciation of the W in “BMW.” To say “double-you” or “dubba-you”? Opinions might vary. But we feel that, considering this is the product name, and it’s a sophisticated product, the former is appropriate.
Often, another of these second-nature things is: including a smile. This script’s ending is ironic, and the humor should be recognized. But in this case, not with a funny, ha-ha tone of voice. Rather (in keeping with the “smooth and sexy” directive) a sexy, playful smile.
Then again, for the same reason, smiling through this entire spot would not be appropriate. Some people seemed to.
Equally inappropriate at the end is over-theatricality. Artificial dramatic pauses ("...arriving...a bit...sooner.") smack of Captain Kirk. And in a Commercial, too many pauses can also become a tremendous waste of very valuable time. In other words, even if the pausing were appropriate and dramatically effective, it might not be an option.
The ending also needs to hit home, not be sped through or thrown away as some people did with it.
Some people paused after the first or second “sedans.” Virtually everyone paused after the first and/or second "735i." Some pronounced the “i” with a glottal stop (a pause caused by closing the throat). Here’s a tip: Smooth usually sounds better. In this case, the directives even said to be smooth. So, what does that mean? It means to connect your words -- except as necessary for phrasing and punctuation marks. One or two intentional dramatic pauses might be included, but to the listener they rarely sound as comfortable and authentic as a smooth read.
Here’s another way to think about this: If the copywriter had inserted a comma after "735i," you'd probably think it was an error – because it would be (from a grammatical standpoint). It would unnecessarily chop up the sentence. Well, when reading the copy with an “artificial” comma, it sounds choppy.
Granted, you may have heard a commercial where a famous actor does, indeed, pause artificially after the product name. But there are several factors there that might be at work: A) He/she is a famous screen actor, not primarily a voice-over actor, so viewers may subconsciously cut him/her some slack. B) He/she has the benefit of being recognized by the viewer – which helps hold viewer attention and can overshadow many sins. C) He/she may have been directed to do so, perhaps to let the product name sink in. Or not. Or maybe he/she even has the clout to ignore direction. As an anonymous voice, you don’t have any of those factors going for you. Rather, especially in an audition, the screener wants to hear that you understand the meaning of “smooth.” (Especially where the instructions called for it!). So give them sm-o-o-o-th.
A large handful of entrants did not slate, or did not slate as requested. For the benefit of newcomers to our contest, hopefully longtime readers of this space will pardon our reprising advice we’ve given after previous contests: When slating instructions are given, slate exactly as specified, adding nothing, and give the slate just before your read. If no slating instructions are given in a situation like this simulated audition, simply slate with your name.
There was some really bad audio. Some of this was technical deficiency, some was a matter of performance technique. (One person even sounded like the recording was made while walking. We’re not sure what to make of that. If it’s an attempt to sound like “real world,” that’s taking “real” too far for this script.) This being an audition, and a simulated one at that, technical quality (within limits) shouldn’t count against you. But performance technique is entirely relevant in judging.
At least one person added reverb. In a word, “No!”
People pronounced the type of BMW two different ways. Some said, “Seven Three Five I.” Some said “Seven Thirty-Five I.” That probably won’t affect your chances in winning a real audition (nor this one). But a screener will appreciate that you did some research beforehand, maybe by asking an owner or phoning a dealer or BMW America itself. As it turns out, in the U.S., owners tend to use the “Seven Thirty-Five” form, although in other countries, at least some English-speakers say, “Seven Three Five.” So in this case, either might be correct, but the usual American way would seem the way to go.