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Million-Dollar Voices: Do Celebrity Narrations Get You to Purchase?

A rugged, emotionless, and extremely manly voice: “Previously, on 24.” My heart would race every Monday night when I’d hear those words. They got me, my mom, and seemingly my entire college dorm floor pumped for the super-agent Jack Bauer awesomeness that was about to take over our lives. And it all started with that resounding voice. Though the show is long gone, the voice still lingers.

So imagine my surprise when the voice returned. Only this time it wasn’t followed by an hour of government espionage, high tech gadgets and killings of questionable legality. Kiefer Sutherland’s rough voice was selling me on… a bank?

KIEFER SUTHERLAND BANK OF AMERICA COMMERCIAL:

Bank of America is hardly breaking ground by hiring a celebrity to do a voice over; it has been going on as long as there have been commercials. But it’s certainly becoming more commonplace, with bigger names joining in.

If the company is going to shell out the money to get a celebrity, they’re going to do it the smartest way possible.  They’ll hire a star that represents the brand image they are going for.

Denis Leary, a “take no prisoners” comedian who rose to the mainstream by playing macho man Tommy Gavin on Rescue Me, makes perfect sense to voice “Ford Tough” commercials.

John Krasinski, most known for playing the fun loving Jim Halpert on The Office (check out the movie Away We Go to see him utilize his full acting talents), is the voice for Blackberry: a company whose main demographic is office employees and big businesses.

JOHN KRASINSKI BLACKBERRY COMMERCIAL:

Tim Allen has always been pure Michigan. Raised there from a young age, the ultra-popular Home Improvement took place near Detroit. So when the Michigan tourism board came up with the slogan “Pure Michigan,” it made perfect sense for Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor to do the voice overs.

But this begs the question: DOES THE CELEB STRATEGY WORK?

If you recognize the actor, are you more apt to buy? The theory is if you recognize the voice, you’ll match the celebrity with the product. A brand strategist, Eli Portnoy, was quoted in a New York Times article as saying, “The reality is people want a piece of something they can’t be. They live vicariously through the products and services that those celebrities are tied to. Years from now, our descendants may look at us and say, ‘God, these were the most gullible people who ever lived.’”

Am I one of these hopeless saps? Probably; though, not to an extreme. When I see a commercial for Dodge narrated by Michael C. Hall, whose ominous voice often takes us into the mind of a serial killer in Dexter, I don’t rush out and look into buying a Dodge. I will, however, usually watch the entire commercial, reminiscing about how phenomenal last week’s episode was.

MICHAEL C. HALL DODGE COMMERCIAL:

The more you watch a commercial, the more ingrained the product becomes in your head. Planting a seed in the viewer’s mind for brand recognition is the goal of good advertising. In that sense, Dodge has succeeded in marketing to me by hiring Hall. Too bad for them I’m in no fiscal position to buy a car.

On the flipside, and in a much less subconscious way, I would most likely rush out and buy anything that Sophia Bush or Olivia Wilde told me I needed (that would make them fall in love with me, right?).

There’s a ton of research that goes into whether it’s profitable to pay a big name for voice over work. The actors make big money (sometimes as much as $400K) for very little time (can be as little as an hour). Companies wouldn’t hand out that kind of dough unless it comes back tenfold.

I’m a sucker, but it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

Have you ever noticed a celebrity voice and gotten excited that you knew the actor? Is there any actor/actress who you would follow blindly, buying anything they endorsed?



Alex Brodsky

Alex is a video specialist and blogger at Quality Logo Products, putting his media background and screenwriting training to good use. When he's not working, he enjoys tinkering with his fantasy sports lineups, engaging in cheeky shenanigans, and cuddling. He must also get all of his caffeine from pop as he can't stand coffee. You can also connect with Alex on Google+.

Comments

  1. Mandy Kilinskis

    I’m more of a sucker for John Krasinski’s Carnival cruise line commercials. I don’t even enjoy cruises that much, but I guarantee you that if I could round up the money, I’d be there. And yes, mostly because Krasinski narrates those commercials in a way that makes them impossible for people to resist.

    I will also buy just about anything that Zachary Levi tried to sell me. If we didn’t already have Comcast Xfinity at home, his commercials would’ve swayed me into getting it.

    And on the flipside, I’m pretty sure that I would avoid anything that Olivia Wilde did a voice over for. It’s definitely all about marketing to the right demographics. ;) And as you pointed out, since so many companies throw lots of money at celebrities, it must be working! I think Tim Allen is voicing Michigan, GM, and Campbell’s Soup now. Which makes me want to start driving my car around Michigan while sipping on some chicken noodle soup.

    • Alex Brodsky

      Zac is awesome! I definitely have a “dude-crush” on him. And yes, I’ve started hearing Tim Allen’s voice a lot for commercials. I think they’re trying to capitalize on his new show’s popularity (Home Improvement 2: My Sons are Now Daughters)

  2. Alex Brodsky

    Zac is awesome! I definitely have a “dude-crush” on him. And yes, I’ve started hearing Tim Allen’s voice a lot for commercials. I think they’re trying to capitalize on his new show’s popularity (Home Improvement 2: My Sons are Now Daughters)

  3. amy

    When I watch a show live (not recorded on my DVR – which is rare) or the news, I can’t help but listen to the voices in the commericals. And yes, I have even been known to google “whose voice is in ‘X’ commerical?” in case of an emergency that will cause me to lose sleep.

    While I don’t know if they give the product or service more incentive for me to buy, I certainly always take notice. The male voices are more memorable for me (Morgan Freeman, Tim Allen, Zach Braff) than the women voiceovers. I wonder if it’s reversed for men? Do you remember more women’s voices than mens?

    • Alex Brodsky

      I actually am more apt to remember men’s voices more as well. They tend to be more distinct.

      Zach Braff’s is especially noticeable. He’s adorable as the Cottonelle Puppy!

  4. Jen

    I would not ever buy a product based on the actor promoting it. For example I STRONGLY dislike Tyra Banks, so if she was the new spokes person for Snapple, I would be disappointed, but I wouldn’t stop drinking it because of her. And it’s the same switched around, I love Michael C. Hall, but I would never buy a Dodge Charger because he voiced the commercial for it. Doge cars still suck either way.

    Great post Alex!

    • Alex Brodsky

      Fact. Dodge is awful. Pretty much all American cars/trucks suck (Homeland Security is coming to take me away now).

    • Amanda

      I too would never buy or not buy a product based on the actor or their voice. But I know that Alex is right–they wouldn’t pay for big actors if it didn’t pull in huge profits….so I’m sure there are more unlike us, that do buy based on actor involvement. I think it’s pretty neat when I can recognize the famous person’s voice though. =)

  5. Cybernetic SAM

    I don’t think that the voice narration necessarily means I will purchase the product, if anything I just feel accomplished when I recognize the voice. When I bought a Pur Water Filter I did snicker a little when I thought about Zach Braff and it didn’t hurt that he narrates the commercials, but I don’t think that was the overall reason for my purchase. Good post, I do very much enjoy playing this guessing game, especially when I get to argue when my significant other is ALWAYS convinced every voice over is John Goodman. ;)

    • Alex Brodsky

      Well that’s because every voice over IS John Goodman

      • Amanda

        P.S. I love Dan Connor!!! ;-)

  6. Lauren

    I just say Beans from Even Stevens in the T Mobile commercials! He’s an elf!!! It made my day!

    • Alex Brodsky

      Oh man! I didn’t even realize that was him until you just pointed it out! But I know exactly what commercial you’re talking about!

  7. Joseph Giorgi

    “Years from now, our descendants may look at us and say, ‘God, these were the most gullible people who ever lived.’”

    So true!

    Still, it’s fun to hear our favorite celebs endorsing random products and services — even if it’s only for their $400K paycheck. Personally, I enjoy commercials a lot more when I can recognize the actor/actress narrating.

    Side note: Anytime I hear Kiefer Sutherland’s voice in an advertisement, I can’t help but get a little upset. Don’t get me wrong: Kiefer Sutherland is all kinds of bad-ass, and his voice is certainly iconic, which makes him ideal for commercial work, but I wish he’d put a little more effort back into his film career. I want to see him on the big screen turning in versatile and inspired performances again. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like he doesn’t do a whole lot of film anymore. Such a shame.

    • Alex Brodsky

      I’m with you, Joe. I would definitely like to see him in more meaningful movies, but his role on a new Fox show coming soon (“Touch”) he’s probably going to be type-cast as the “bad a$$” hero role due to 24.

  8. Jill Tooley

    Great examples, Alex! I didn’t realize that Denis Leary did any commercial voice overs — interesting stuff.

    I’m usually pretty damn good at discerning celebrity voices (my husband usually disagrees, though, so it turns into an argument until one of us looks it up). Jeff Bridges, the Dude himself, did a Hyundai commercial and a Duracell commercial recently and I picked out the voice of SNL’s/The Lonely Island’s Andy Samberg in a Sprint commercial ( I tried to find a video online, but couldn’t).

    This list on Parade also has a whole bunch that I didn’t know before.

    Anyway, I wouldn’t say that a celebrity would necessarily urge me to buy a product, but it might make me trust it more. Of course, that all depends on the celeb! For example, I love Jane Lynch, so the Nook tablet commercial she did actually makes me take a closer look at the product. If any random person was raving about it onscreen, I’d probably mute it. But Jane Lynch? I’d listen to her talk about pretty much anything…

    Awesome post!! :)

    • Alex Brodsky

      Jane Lynch is EVERYWHERE lately! She was awesome before Glee. Now… I’m not so sure.

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