Voice Overs Of The World: Super Bowl XLIV Wrap-Up
Without a doubt, the Super Bowl is responsible for some of the most innovative and talked-about advertising on television every year. But it’s also a hot spot for some really terrific voice over work. While an overwhelming majority of the commercials in last night’s game featured voice overs in some capacity, I’ve selected a few to look at here in Voice Overs of the World that really feature extensive VO as an integral part of the ad.
Traditionally, this Hyundai Sonata ad isn’t one I would spotlight here as it uses a celebrity voice, but since Hyundai ran three or four ads last night, I knew some of you out there would be wracking your brains trying to figure out who it was. Yes, folks, that is indeed Oscar-nominated actor Jeff Bridges providing the voice for the Hyundai commercials. Give the man credit, though; he does deliver a terrific VO. (I guess that’s why he gets nominated for all those awards!)
Another ad with a celebrity voice, I’m highlighting this Skechers ad for a different reason. Sure, Joe Montana lends his voice to the ad as a celebrity endorsee (and as a lifelong 49ers fan, of course a part of me was very excited to hear from Joe M.), but boy, he really doesn’t have a lot of talent in the voice over arena, does he? Listen to how flat and lifeless his delivery is. This is a clear case of the celebrity name being much more important than the talent said celebrity brings to the piece. (In fact, there’s a Wheaties Fuel commercial that debuted last week with an equally weak VO by Peyton Manning.)
But right next to big Joe’s terrible performance, we have two non-celebrity voice overs at work, “Lisa” and “Nina.” Both of these voice actors do a lot in the very short time they’re given, delivering their testimonials with energy and believability, while sounding like real people instead of paid voice actors. On top of all that, there’s a Skechers-style announcer thrown into the mix. Not bad; four voice overs in a 15-second spot.
Cars.com’s “Timothy Richmond” ad is the third in a series of commercials that they’ve done over the past three Super Bowls, each one introducing us to a somewhat extraordinary (yet ordinary) person. While I think the payoff of the commercial doesn’t live up to humor and cleverness of the first 3/4ths of it, I do really enjoy the voice over in the spot. It’s got a neat vibe to it; a cross between documentary narration and a heartfelt, personal piece, as if the narrator personally knows Timothy Richmond. It’s a well-done commercial for the most part, and at a minute long versus the traditional 30-second Super Bowl commercial, that’s a pretty significant VO credit for that actor to add to his demo.
I have to admit, I got a really big kick out of this Dodge “Man’s Last Stand” commercial, in which various men stare off into the distance, slack-jawed, while their “inner voice” extols all the sacrifices they make on a daily basis (“I will watch your vampire TV shows” is my favorite line!) so that they can drive the car they want to drive. I think it’s an interesting choice to use just one voice actor for the spot, rather than trying to give each guy on screen a unique voice, but I think it’s effective as it gets across that sort of shared experience that many men have. Sure, your job, relationship, and daily chores might not be perfect, but at the end of the day, you get to drive this cool truck.
The actor’s delivery reminded me a lot of Michael C. Hall’s voice overs in Showtime’s hit show Dexter, and it turns out there’s a good reason for that: it is Micheel C. Hall. I can see why the commercial’s producers chose him for this spot; he has this fascinating style of delivery that is somehow both completely monotone and extremely expressive, and this commercial manages to tap into that perfectly. Again, another one-minute ad that’s very effective and relies heavily on its voice over to get its point across.
Ahh… E-Trade. I’ve resisted writing about these talking baby commercials for a long time, mostly because there’s so many of them that I didn’t know where to start. But since they did advertise in the Super Bowl and they do rely extensively on voice over, I felt like this was a good chance to bring them up. There were a couple of E-Trade commercials during the game, but this was the one I liked the best.
There’s no denying that these talking baby e-trade ads do have some great voice over work in them. The “main baby” that’s in most of their ads is always terrific, and I do like the way he manages to sound like a bit of a player here, the titular “wolf” of the ad. He always manages to have that cocky, self-sure attitude that resonates solely through the voice actor’s delivery, since it’s not like the baby himself is giving much of a performance (not that isn’t computer-enhanced, anyway.) But the female voice actor in the piece is equally as funny in my book, portraying a nice sense of baby jealousy over, “That milk-aholic, Wendy.” Then you get a third voice actor coming in at the end with, “Milka-what?!?” I would have love to have seen that actor’s face when she got her script… and the one word on it!
Finally, we have the ad for Universal Studios’ new Harry Potter theme park, which features a wonderfully wizardly voice over. With a British accent that’s not too strong but clearly captures the feel of the Harry Potter world, the actor clearly conveys that sense of wonder that I like so much (and that I wrote a whole column about a few weeks ago.) This was pretty different than most Super Bowl ads this year (or any year, for that matter), and so it stood out to me quite a bit, especially considering that VO drives the whole spot.
So there you have it, six of the most prominent uses of voice over in a Super Bowl that was filled with great examples. While on the whole I found this year’s advertisements a bit disappointing in terms of entertainment value, I was thrilled to see how much voice over work was generated by a single sporting event.
What were your favorite commercials and voice overs from this year’s game?