I have a love – hate relationship with January. While it’s the start of a fresh, clean-linen-scented new year, it chucks so much info at me that my brain hurts. The internet goes nuts for the biggest [insert topic] trends of the year. From late December and throughout January, those little SEO-grabbing, click-baiting listicles are everywhere. And do I click on every last one of those little suckers.
Heck, I’m always happy to jump aboard a list-based bandwagon, so have been known to throw a few voice over predictions out into the world. Not that this small cart is headed down to SEO town any time soon. And that’s cool with me. I use this stuff for my voice over business planning and maybe it’s useful for my fellow voice actors as well as producers, audio engineers, copywriters and general advertising types. If it is, please read on.
As far as voice over trends go, in my view, it’s never one single vocal direction or style that’s on-trend. Rather, it’s a bunch of bigger factors that trickle down into what product a voice is whacked on, how that product is used and where it’s used. The voice over direction and style ultimately follow.
OK, I’m gonna call it right here in para 4. The 6 voice over trends I think will dominate 2018. Take the info and run if you like. Alternatively, read on for the rationale behind each (if you so please). I promise links, stats and examples. So here they are… 2018 in voice over will be the year of:
1. Educational / knowledgeable / credible sounds
2. Localised accents
3. Younger voices
4. Audio assistants and audio-based content
5. Immersive and experiential characters
6. Motivational / aspirational styles
Now let’s break down the why. Those bigger factors I alluded to earlier. Let’s call them overarching as it sounds more legit. Our overarching buddies are: advertising, technology and entertainment.
Advertising. The bread and butter of voice over for so many years. Television and radio were pretty much it. Fast forward to now and digital advertising is where it’s at. And I see it responsible for voice over trend 1, 2 and 3.
VO trend 1: educational / knowledgeable / credible sounds.
These voice over styles will be important as digital advertising increasingly shifts to native advertising and sponsored content. So what does that even mean? In a nutshell, they’re the digital equivalent of the advertorials you see in magazines and newspapers. It’s content that mimics the environment around it.
Why the move to this type of advertising? It blends in so well with the content around it, most people don’t even know it’s paid content. All of the heavy hitting advertising influencers reckon it’s going to huge in 2018. According to Business Insider, native advertising will drive 74% of all ad revenue by 2021.
Video is a perfect format for it. Not only is video content (still) dominating—it’s perfect for educating, entertaining and informing. And key to native advertising and sponsored content is ditching the product-centric approach in favour of an editorial or storytelling approach. This will call on knowledgeable and informative voice styles. Even narrator-esque sounds. When done really well, the audience will engage and share content with their networks (viral video anyone?).
Here’s a great native advertising example born from a BuzzFeed – Purina partnership. A cat’s guide to taking care of your human is clearly an ad, but instead of preaching product virtues, it instead fits perfectly with the BuzzFeed brand and style. While it’s a humorous piece, it still uses a knowledgeable, narrator-style voice over:
VO trend 2: localised accents.
The digital landscape is making it cheaper and easier than ever for local businesses to target and interact with consumers. Data-driven insights and social technologies allow us to carve up audiences to deliver customised and targeted advertising. In particular, location-based ads.
Expect to see more ads specific to your location. Whether through:
- search—Google Posts rolled out to all businesses in 2017 allowing them to share daily specials or promotions, promote events and showcase products
- social—Facebook Local mashes together info about events, local businesses and places your friends have checked into, or even
- catch up television—with cheaper, scaled advertising rates.
This will bring an increase in not only requests for international voices but also regional accents. Expect castings for specific locations and regional dialects rather than just countries.
And I’m talking authentic accents, not impersonators or imitators. Given the range of, and access to, international voice talent, there’s really no excuse for not going authentic. Beware: using an imitator could end up like this:
VO trend 3: younger voices.
2018 will see brands start to focus on Generation Z. Gen Z was born from 1995, with the oldest z’ers just 23. That means they’re the teenagers entering college, soon to join the workforce and make their way in the world.
According to Forbes, by 2020 Generation Z will account for 40% of all consumers—making them a pretty powerful consumer force who are already forming brand preferences and buying behaviours. They expect brands to be transparent, authentic and real. They want to see people who reflect their own lives.
Voice overs for brands targeting Gen Z, I suspect, will reflect the Z’s. Not only in language and tone, but age as well. While a teenage voice over ‘sound’ is nothing new, I think brands and producers will start seeking out the real deal. I predict the market will grow for younger voice actors—children and teenagers.
A quick search of voice over talent management companies and online casting sites and it’s pretty apparent that there’s more voice actors capable of replicating a child or teenager voice than child and teenage voice actors themselves. It puzzles me why there isn’t more younger voice talent out there, given in the screen acting world there’s a plethora of child and teenage talent.
Interestingly, I’ve already come across casting notices requesting specific voice actor ages and explicitly stating ‘not an older voice actor capable of sounding young’.
The real deal—here are some amazing child voice actors working on the Peanuts movie:
As technology evolves, more voiceover opportunities open up. eLearning, audiobooks, explainer videos… all solid voice over gigs that weren’t around prior to the www.
And a quick peruse of CES 2018, it’s pretty clear that digital assistants are so hot right now. In fact, Techradar goes as far as to call 2018 the year of the audio assistant.
Which leads nicely to …
VO trend 4: audio responses and audio content.
Voice search will continue to grow this year. Audio already accounts for 20% of searches, but the big difference this year will be how we get the answers. When we start asking questions using our voice rather than our typing fingers, we expect audio answers—not the text-based responses we’ve generally been served up. Especially if we’re using our voice because we’re multitasking or unable to type for some reason.
And it’s not just the way we search for information—it’s our tech and gadgets too. Voice-first devices are becoming common house hold appliances. From Google home to projectors, to light switches right through to cars—we’re talking to our appliances and they’re talking back.
Expect brands to create more audio content and AI-based responses as well as answers coming from your big gun digital assistants like Siri and Alexa. Audio content will also be scripted in a more informal way than traditional written web content.
I predict audio-based answers to common questions, audio notifications and increased options for audio versions of existing text-based online content.
Even Super Bowl predictions:
Brands also need to consider the value of a single voice across multiple channels and tactics. Much like a logo, corporate colours or a corporate font, a single voice offers consistency, cross-platform recognition and some pretty nifty opportunities for voice actors.
Our third and final voice over driving force is entertainment—from consuming media to whipping ourselves into shape. Trends in entertainment ultimately offer up voice acting opportunities with defined sounds and styles.
VO trend 5: immersive and experiential characters.
And while these two little acronyms have been thrown rather loosely for the last few years, I’m predicting some serious 2018 traction for VR and AR. Particularly from an entertainment perspective.
Virtual Reality is proving to be the ultimate escape from the real world. Gaming, 3D movies and virtual experiences will call for character voice acting—whether specific characters or the casual girl or guy next door.
While Augmented Reality brings a more social experience allowing social sharing, communities and joint gaming. And brings it to the masses through the latest phones. Expect to see some significant growth in this space. Much like VR, character voice opportunities await.
Character voicing has been the domain of video games in recent years, but unlike gaming, the application of the voice over—in particular the way it’s heard (i.e. up close and very, very personal)—will mean actors will need to adjust and tweak their delivery to suit the way they’re applied to VR and AR.
Audio quality is also critical here. Nothing will kill a virtual or augmented experience quicker than dodgy audio, poor recordings and sub-standard voice over.
Glen McCready’s voice acting in Playstation’s VR game Robinson: The Journey is brilliant—check it out:
VO trend 6: Motivational / aspirational styles.
But it’s not all fun and games… we need to whip our bodies into shape, eat the right stuff and have that dance like no one’s watching mindset or something.
All those insta-famous influencers telling us to live our best lives will shape this prediction.
I think we’ll see more ‘in the comfort of your own home’ and wearable tech-based workouts, meditations, relaxations, motivations. And audio content, prompts and feedback will improve the user experience.
Whether it’s someone cheering you on for your fastest mile or km, the audio version of your fave quote or a soothing voice helping you unwind at the end of the day… These all equal voice over opportunities.
Moov HR promises to whip you into shape:
What are your voice over predictions for 2018? Leave your thoughts below…