In-Depth: How voiceovers emerged as the hero of lockdown campaigns

lockdown voiceovers

Amidst the lockdown, many campaigns have leveraged voiceovers for impact. We take a look at the phenomenon with experts who took this route.

A lot has changed for brands and agencies as they are trying to brave through the restrictions of the lockdown and the needs of communication under it. There is a need to be more mindful and human in the way they speak to consumers at the moment. Brands need to communicate that even though the products are not easily available at the moment, they are going to be there for them in whatever capacity they can. Voiceovers are playing an important role under the lockdown, here’s how.

Voiceovers under lockdown

With the luxury of a soundproof studio being out of the question, the availability of a basic studio has become a factor for an artist to be considered for voiceovers under the lockdown. “We try and opt for VO artists who have at least a basic studio facility at home to ensure high-quality output,” says Smita Murarka, Vice President – Marketing, Duroflex, adding that artists are willing to go the extra mile to bridge limitations.

For the team at Duroflex, the biggest learning upon creating films with voiceovers under the lockdown has been that even with all the restrictions, one can create beautiful and meaningful content if the brand purpose befits the situation and outplays into a strong creative output.

“For our brand films, we used our existing creative assets like old TVCs along with some stock images for the visuals and repurposed it to bring alive the context of how sleep impacts immunity and encouraging our audience to stay in and sleep sufficiently,” shares Murarka.

The willingness to find innovative solutions is a must in times like these, especially when a crowd-sourced campaign is being worked upon. Trust and reliance are thus important factors.

Explaining their selection process for a voiceover artist for their lockdown campaign, Prasun Kumar, CMO, Magicbricks says, “We zeroed in on Arshad Iqbal, who has worked with the brand in the past and was very willing to be a part of this voluntary initiative.”

Voice of the brand

A narrational style of putting together a campaign has several aspects to it. The voice drives the story, reinforcing the brand message in a story form. Magicbrick’s Kumar likens the choice of including a voiceover with that of taking a call between only visuals or a long copy in case of print. He feels the creative thought behind the campaign is central to this choice.

While making the recent Magicbricks campaign, the team members worked remotely from their homes. The recording happened on phone and multiple video calls were conducted for discussions until the final version was ready. Post-production too happened in a similar fashion.

“The Ghar main rehke Ghar ko Dekha film was entirely based on the background narrative/poetry and hence the role of the voiceover was extremely significant. It’s a film that needs to be watched with sound on for comprehension,” Magicbrick’s Kumar tells us, explaining how the voiceover added a unique ‘human’ dimension to the product.

Adding to the conversation, Rakesh Menon, Executive Creative Director, FCB Interface explains, “In the age of this lockdown, the power of visuals has diminished, simply because of the inability to shoot what we’d like to. But voiceovers can be ‘visual’ too. They can be used to paint images in the listener’s minds, making them a powerful tool during the lockdown.”

FCB Interface recently created a voiceover-dominant ad for Huggies.

For Huggies, FCB Interface pretty much followed the same process of selecting the artist as they would have earlier. The criteria were to find a voice that was right for the brand, a warm endearing voice like a mother’s.

Getting into the details, Menon tells us, “The recording and post-production were done remotely. The tone and manner were agreed upon with some samples before the final VO was recorded. While there were some limitations in terms of quality due to the lack of a soundproofed recording studio, the final mixing (which was done through in-house editors) took care of most of the issues.”

Reassuring interactions

With the lockdown, the number of people a person can physically interact with on a daily basis has dropped significantly. This insight has brought about changes in content and campaign execution as well as ideation. The way a brand speaks to its consumers has changed to a certain degree. They no longer sell like a brand. Rather, they communicate like a friend.

“In uncertain times like this where many of our routine activities have transformed into virtual ones, the right voices can evoke feelings of reassurance, and bring a human touch to the brand story. At a time when social human connect is restricted, voiceovers can go a long way to bringing in a sense of human connection,” explains Duroflex’s Murarka.

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Sharing experience of creating a voiceover-dominant campaign for India Gate Basmati Rice, Janmenjoy Mohanty, Regional Creative Officer, Lowe Lintas tells us, “Voiceover artists are chosen post listening to their voice samples, which are usually studio-quality recordings. In the current lockdown, getting the same audio quality can be a challenge at times as most artists are recording at home.”

The collaborative process of creating a piece in the studio with everyone sitting together to discuss, share inputs and feedbacks is no longer possible. However, creators are trying to make the best of the situation with the help of technology and communication skills.

“The same happens now on mail over distances and takes just a little longer,” Mohanty adds.

Going forward

While the restrictions have nudged agencies into thinking beyond the ordinary, brands have become more open to experimentation. Magicbrick’s Kumar tells us, “Under ‘normal’ conditions, making a brand film where skills and executions are crowd-sourced may have been an exotic experiment at best, but now it looks like a mainstream way of doing things.”

“In the lockdown phase, where there have been restrictions on shooting, it has also helped flesh out the story or idea, which would have otherwise been done with characters and a more elaborate shoot. Even lockdown films have started looking formatted now,” says Lowe Lintas’ Mohanty.

These experiences and learnings are likely to shape the way brands and agencies approach voiceovers after the lockdown has been completely lifted. One possibility could be them unleashing the outdoor-themed ideas simmering slightly in their minds. They could also take a very cautious approach in regards to resources at play, making the most of everything at hand. It would be interesting to see how things pan out.