By Jeffrey Hedquist
Your audience is distracted, they’re over-communicated, they’ve had too much coffee, or not enough. In other words they’re difficult to engage.
How do you keep their attention for a full 10, 15, 30 or 60 seconds? Hook ‘em and keep pulling. What pulls? Consistent variations. What the…?
Those advertising attention deficit disordered folks out there get distracted, bored and disengaged very easily. What can you do? Vary the pace, tone or rhythm of your commercial. And do it consistently throughout the commercial.
How can you do this in a single voice commercial?
The voice can speed up, slow down or become louder or softer. There may be a reason to use an accent or technical effect (stutter, reverb, filter, delay, compress, extend, double or triple, etc.). The voice can imitate someone who’s younger, older, the opposite sex or a completely different personality.
The voice can imitate the sounds of tools, engines, nature sounds, animals, objects or abstract ideas. It can convey emotional changes. It’s all the stuff a good storyteller uses.
One voice can talk to him or her self. The legendary Ken Nordine taught me the technique of a voice having a conversation with a filtered version of itself. Check him out.
Poets, singers, orators - when they perform, will vary, stretch, take liberties with the rhythm and phrasing, so it doesn’t get sing-songy. In music it’s called tempo rubato.
Think of your commercial as the landscape you observe on a journey. The variations in the scenery will provide emotional interest. Continuing the same rhythm throughout your commercial can lull the audience to sleep.
Remember, you have 4 elements to work with: voices, music, sound effects and silence. What opportunities are there in your advertising message to use each? I don’t mean just employing them randomly, I mean how can you use each in a way that will enhance, clarify or intensify the message and engage the listener?
Adding other voices to your message will help boost the variety. Appropriate changes in music, sound effects that amplify rather than distract and the use of silence will reduce the wall-to-wall carpet of words that makes many commercials blend into the background.
Read through your script, listening as much as you can from the audience’s perspective. Notice the places where you start to lose interest. Rewrite to keep the audience’s attention. Radio’s power is its emotional bond with the audience. Variety will help keep that bond.
This is especially important at the end of the spot during the call to action. Give listeners the feel of being invited and making their own choice, rather than being sold.
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