Gobs on Sticks

Thoughts mostly (but not always) about the voice-over business, from London Voiceover Artist, Mike Cooper

  • About the author

    My name is Mike Cooper. I'm a full time Voiceover Artist living and working in London, and this is my blog. Find out more about me on my main website (there's a link further down this column), or if you'd like to hear some of my work, check out the files below.

The Hard Sell: Is it back – or did it never go away?

Posted by MikeCooper on September 25, 2008

The reason I ask is that when I recorded a voiceover demo at A1 Vox in Soho (nice people to do such a thing with – tell Charles I sent you) back at the start of 2007, I opted to include just such a read. You can listen to it here.

My technique has probably improved a bit since, but you get the idea of the genre of commercial read we’re talking about. They’re usually for either for furniture stores, carpet warehouses or DIY outlets, and if you watched television in this country at all in the 80s or 90s, you could have been forgiven for thinking that – with the possible exception of Persil and that woman with the Shake-and-Vac – they were the only adverts on the telly from about 6pm on a Friday night until closedown on a Saturday (ahhhh, remember closedown?) 

One of my voiceover chums, who’s been at this a lot longer than me, at least in terms of jobbing for commercials, told me that she thought this sort of thing was dead and that my demo was a bit of an anachronism, unless strictly for parody purposes.

The reason I’m still puzzled is that I’ve just recorded six of this style of ad for a chain of carpet emporiums in the north of England, for airing on both TV and radio. In each 30-second spot I bigged it up, extoled the virtues of the Wool Wiltons and laminate flooring (with free underlay on orders over £50!) and even urged the audience to “Hurry down – TODAY!” without so much as pausing for breath.

So, did the “Hard Sell” come back into fashion while I wasn’t looking? Is the age of the Estuary English “I couldn’t care less” drawl on commercials and promos on the wane (oh, I do hope so…), or did Voice Over Man never go away?

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3 Responses to “The Hard Sell: Is it back – or did it never go away?”

  1. Steve Martin said

    Did the script go “Carpets! carpets! carpets!.. you’ll love them”?

    Two thoughts:

    1. The economic downturn means there’s more selling on price and less aspirational advertising out there.

    2. The price-based hard sell only withered in the hands of London’s more pretentious agencies.

    I’ve sent a link to your blog to Simon Prentice who runs a Northern-based commercial productions company. He’ll know.

  2. mikecooper said

    Oh, you saw the script then? Pretty much, yes!

    And thanks for passing on my link – we’ll await his response!

  3. Your question is an interesting one – we produce commercials for about 30 radio stations all around the UK (plus voice overs for TV commercials) and I have to say we’ve always had these types of commercials coming through, especially for stations in the North of the country.

    Although I think they have been seen as a bit cheesy over the past 10 years they do get people through the door (for many businesses) and are definitely having a resurgence.

    Steve (England) who works with me (and a voice over himself) frequently does these ‘hard sell’ reads, and has recently found he’s been asked to do more of these types of scripts.

    I always used to think that the late, great Mike Hurley used to be the king of the ‘hard sell’ but as he found in his later years these types of reads became increasingly more unpopular and if you don’t offer flexibility in your voice, (in essence the service you offer as a voice artist) then the work may dry up.

    One real problem is finding voiceovers who can do a good ‘hard-sell’ read – a lot of the younger voices simply can’t, it’s not their style. I know when Steve is away we find it very hard to find a replacement.

    Whether it’s attributed to the fact that times are harder and people are having to fight (or should that be shout) for every customer or the change in the overall advertising trend the good news for voice overs (like yourself & Steve) who can do the ‘hard sell’, is there’s likely to be more sessions in the pipeline!

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