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?